A couple of events over the last week or so have raised this question in my mind.

The property sector in which I’m actively involved has for some time been committed to improving environmental sustainability. I attended an investment forum last week and was delighted to learn that, after over a decade or more, investment, particularly in property that espoused improved environmental sustainability, was beginning to attract investors and achieving growth in value and revenue better than those property investments not espousing the improvement in environmental sustainability. This was a happy message given that research in the United States some 10 years ago showed that only banks and oil companies strive to be seen to act responsibly to advance the image of their brand.

Innovative design and methods of construction are bringing forward exciting new ways of improving the environmental performance of buildings towards zero carbon. This is helping to bring attention to the attractiveness of such investments and for occupiers a significant saving in annual operational costs.

We continue to have a dichotomy where short-term development finance and incentives do not yet match the occupiers need for low-cost operations and in particular occupation of buildings and their operations.

The second event was being caught up in the disruption around Westminster caused by the protests to secure faster environmental change. I know that I and many others with whom I talk support the principle of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore acting responsibly and sustainably. But this is where my sympathy with the protesters ends, as I believe to act responsibly there needs to be balance and the impact on hardship of racing to zero carbon has not yet been justified.

So we have two ends of the spectrum in terms of capital investment and protest to bring zero carbon quickly into effect beginning to move towards each other. I am hopeful that in a short time we will see these objectives merge and continue to have an ethical and responsible commitment to
environmental sustainability.

This is really what the North East Initiative on Business Ethics seeks to challenge how we end up in a balanced and responsible manner in acting as a responsible and ethical business. Changes happening, perhaps not quickly enough for some but the signs are encouraging. I would like to see more attention given to the property investment sector, construction and development bringing forward innovation and achieving a zero carbon output.

Kevan Carrick – Chairman North-Eastern Initiative on Business Ethics