Part two – an interview with Pooran Desai, OBE, Co-Founder of Bioregional and International Director of One Planet Communities
How has the perception or role of sustainability changed?
It’s very different now from when BedZED was built. Sustainability has a much more widespread take up and is more embedded in organisations’ activities. More and more businesses and local authorities have integrated sustainability into their business plan. There has been lots of progress, from investment in renewable energy and recycling to companies getting rid of their shares in fossil fuels.
Sustainability has been taken up on a global scale. For example, we helped initiate a process, spearheaded by the United Nations, that created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of seventeen aspirational “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them. The 2015 Paris Agreement is another key example of sustainability at a global level. At the Paris climate conference (COP21), 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal, setting out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.
On the whole, we have accepted that things need to be done in order to save the planet. There is a lot of greenwash, but the challenge now is transforming society and businesses fast enough to have a real impact in combatting climate change, like moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
In the built environment, standards such as LEED and BREEAM are accepted and actioned, but One Planet Living goes beyond just sustainable or green building, into every aspect of our lives, including food production, local community and biodiversity, as well as zero carbon transport, materials and reducing waste to zero.
Where next for sustainability?
Currently financial capital is closely monitored and managed. But true prosperity also depends on maintaining and increasing social and environmental capital. Until we nurture, monitor and manage social and environmental capital, we will not make good, well-informed decisions – we should only invest financial capital where it also builds both social and environmental capital. We are exploring ways we might contribute to these efforts. In the next twelve months, we will be looking at methodology to create accounts to measure and value social and environmental capital. We hope this system – oneplanet.net – being built with support from companies such as Cundall – will be at the forefront of creating these new conventions.
Once these conventions are in place and accepted, it will enable sustainable activities to scale rapidly, which is what is needed to create true wealth. Given the urgency of the challenge, we will need powerful approaches to transformation, based on collaboration and sharing knowledge.
What role do companies like Cundall have in the future of sustainability?
Companies like Cundall, and the other Global Founders of our oneplanet.net initiative, are providing great support for One Planet Living. I think it places them at the forefront of the industry and in a strong position to be able to add value with their knowledge, readying clients to take advantage of new opportunities. For example, where their clients are looking for social and environmental as well as financial returns, Cundall could take a role in making them, through One Planet Action Plans, more investment ready and attractive to impact investors*. For example, I recently attend an FT conference based on a new report Investing for Global Impact 2016, which made it quite clear that impact investment is one of the fastest growing forms of investment.
[*Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. (GIIN Global Impact Investing Network website).]
To find out more about Cundall’s One Planet Company commitments, visit http://www.cundall.com/About-Us/Sustainability/One-Planet-Company.aspx