The time has come to take a more serious view of sustainability through “collaborative fusion”

Jerry Percy head of sustainability at Gleeds

The time for knee jerk green tokenism and eco-bling are almost behind us as we begin to see clients taking a more mature approach to sustainability in the built environment.

The last 12 months has seen the coming and going of charlatans and snake oil salesmen more interested in isolated issues that a broader holistic and integrated approach.

As clients become more mature the type and quality of advice they require increases significantly with some consultants on a steep learning curve.

There is more of a risk management approach to sustainability being adopted and clients are looking to their advisors to provide a comprehensive and co-ordinated delivery service.

Whether it is the impacts of climate change, increasing energy costs, ever more challenging environmental legislation, use of depleted natural resources, landfill taxation, available water supply, ethical procurement, provision of local labour, economic development, enhancing asset value or reputation there is likely to be a sustainability issue that represents a risk to a business and clients require help to address this.

Profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive and clients are beginning to realise that focussing on sustainability can reduce risk and improve value.

All of these, together with the political climate that exists at the time need to be considered together and the process known as whole life value analysis (WLVA) is designed to do this.

WLVA requires an operating model which encourages collaborative and integrated working supported by integrated processes and people, value management and governance, the success of which is audited by performance measurement and management.

A more modern approach is required that encourages and supports agility in the people, the processes and the design. All involved in sustainability need a purpose to believe in, the systems need to reflect the vision and values of the company, and the people need the skills and passion for change and should be held up as role models in this area.

Sustainability has yet to be embedded in the processes and systems of a number of organisations and clients need the support to do this which can only be done if the organisational structures are in tune with the behaviours. Even with the help and support of experts, clients are likely to need to upskill there own in house resources and this is essential if an integrated approach is to succeed.

Only through “collaborative fusion” can we engender a culture of mutual trust and respect which minimises risk and lost opportunity and move forward all those involved in the built environment to achieve a sustainable economy, a strong healthy and just society all living within environmental limits.