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Ecobuild 2017: from traditional sustainability to more social sustainability?

So much has changed since Ecobuild 2016; things that one would never have imagined possible happened… Leicester City won the Premier League and now face a fight for survival; the political arena globally now looks very different 12 months on too. So we look upon Ecobuild 2017 from a different lens than perhaps we might have previously. In our industry we had to recognise the need to ‘modernise’ with the Farmer Report in 2016 and now look ahead to the challenges to deliver our ambitious pipeline of infrastructure projects with a workforce whose demographic profile is somewhat uncertain.

In the construction industry we are facing challenges relating to modern slavery. The government has identified a number of sectors where there is likely to be a higher risk of this vile crime. Sectors such as agriculture and car washes are perhaps not a surprise but we have joined this group along with nail bars. The connection between people, projects and products is now much more interlinked partly because of the ethical labour sourcing challenges we face. The overarching themes at Ecobuild 2017 resonate with these areas of concern, risk and opportunity.

Whilst there will be a focus on project and product data with the BIM agenda I do think that the social dimension of the construction industry will become increasingly more significant. We have been busy working to develop supply chain assurance models relating to human rights due diligence in the supply chain. Standards like our ELS and other sector initiatives will be complementary to the wellbeing agenda we see strengthening in BREEAM and other building rating schemes.

Perhaps the voice of humanity will regain some strength and the notion that we are actually stronger together come full circle. Businesses and organisations in the built environment recognise the need to collaborate around sustainability issues and so perhaps too will we all as individuals. This year will no doubt have more surprises for us but if change is the only constant then we need to find ways to better navigate uncertain waters.

Dr. Shamir Ghumra will be speaking at Ecobuild 2017 as part of the Ethical sourcing and supply chain assurance in the built environment (Build Circular) and How Ethical is your Supply Chain? (BRE Academy) sessions on 8 March.