Welcome to the first in our series of interviews with industry experts on:
Making better business decisions for a better world.
We are producing a series of short articles to cover aspects a business owner should consider when reviewing their processes and operational functions for a better world, with a focus on corporate responsibility and reputation management in areas of sustainability, the natural world and local communities.
Roland has been working within the planning and development industry since 2004 and brings a fresh approach to landowners wanting to develop a site. He has worked in the renewable energy sector and specialised in gaining consents for large-scale solar farms and more recently battery storage schemes.
We asked Roland, what he felt are some of the biggest challenges the planning and development industry faces in improving its impact on the natural world?
Working in the planning and development world we are at the coal face of trying to see how future development can be more sustainable and impact less and using less of the limited resources we have. When you are working with clients you are looking at what best fits their circumstances but also how little changes in the design and concept could actually provide real cost savings and in the long term for both the client but also the wider environment.
How do you see businesses, within planning and development, look at the wider picture when aligning their operational functions to the ethics and values they may have for a positive impact on the wider world?
Professionals who work in the planning sector are pretty much driven by what national and local guidance and policy dictates. It can be frustrating at times when you want to promote a concept or design that doesn’t necessarily fit in the box. Planning Authorities are always trying to evolve plans and policies that require developers to respond and adapt to issues such as climate change but it’s an ongoing process. Land is a finite resource and is under constant pressure. ‘Recycling’ land or buildings is often expensive and time consuming however planning consultants will often see ways of utilising existing buildings or land that will have less of an impact on the environment.
Sustainability is a word used a lot at the moment, how do you see sustainability being fully understood, and resulting in genuinely putting process in place to be a more ‘sustainable’ business?
Sustainability has been a word that has been used in the planning sector for many years now. It probably has a different meaning to other professions or sectors but the end result is that we are aiming to do more with less. Clients do understand this concept but will often be guided by what they have to do as opposed to what they should do. Sustainability is a common thread that works through all our working lives. It’s not just about getting the train or bus but how you get to the train station. Whether you make a conscious decision to reduce your reliance on meat or dairy products is fine but if you take six flights a year for business will tend to make a far larger impact.
In your experience, what are the main challenges businesses face when it comes to reviewing their strategies for engaging with and improving their impact on their local community?
Planning and development and community engagement is an area which is commonly talked about. People are often nervous of change and planning is all about changing the environment. Trying to engage with people and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it is often half the battle. If you can explain the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ before people hear about it in the pub then it is often better for everyone. However, resistance to change is something that we see every day. Trying to bring ALL the people with you on the journey is not always possible. You may just have to accept that not everyone is open to change.
Interestingly only about 6% of the land within the UK is actually developed. The remaining land is either agricultural or natural landscape. Presenting people with factually correct information rather than something they have read in the newspaper is a challenge.
With so much misinformation out there, which information sources do you feel are reliable and trustworthy for gathering facts, that you can then use to make the right decisions for your business?
I try and use stats and information that come from websites with a ‘.gov.uk’ domain at the end. The problem is that you need to know where to look and how to interpret the information, which may not be in a format that is readily available or readable.
Equally academic research that has been peer reviewed is a good source of data and reference.
I would not recommend Wikipedia as your first port of call!
Which businesses or influencers do you feel are doing a great job at reputation management and in presenting the ethics and values of their business – in a genuine and authentic way?
It is often business that are not that well known, for instance Boston Tea Party making a decision in April last year not to sell coffee in disposable cups anymore, and probably making a loss as a result.
The recent decision to put a 10p charge on plastic bag use has made a huge impact. What is really important to understand is that plastic is not necessarily the issue. What is, is our total reliance on a product that may not be required or needed in certain situations, e.g. packaging around fruit and veg.
Often it is about changing people’s behaviour, which may possibly put people at an inconvenience. ‘Green washing’ is something that hopefully people can see through but is often dressed up as CSR for a business , e.g. airliners using quieter airplanes!
Cadence Planning is an independent planning consultancy which provides bespoke planning solutions and guidance to landowners and individuals who want to achieve the optimal result for their development proposal, no matter what size or scale. Find out more on their website.
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