Collaboration the key to sustainability
Written by David Worsfold on 20th April 2023
Seventy members of the Worshipful Company of Insurers and the Worshipful Company of Constructors sat down at Glaziers Hall last night to explore the challenges of creating genuine sustainability in the built environment.
The key message that came out of the thought-provoking presentations and the lively discussions at the tables was that insurance and construction together have a huge opportunity to play a major part in the drive to net zero carbon emissions but that this will only happen if the two sectors collaborate.
“We have to come together in a much more collaborative way to solve these problems and meet this enormous challenge”, said Master Insurer Nick Dunlop.
Master Constructor David Sheehan said insurers were key in helping the construction sector rise to the challenge of climate change: “Adopting new techniques and new materials is risky. There is always the chance that something could go wrong … that is where insurance comes in”. Good quality data on the new risks is going to be key, he added.
Paul Sheedy, founder of Unifi.id, a tech-led business focussing on sustainability, threw out some powerful challenges to the audience, saying net zero by 2050 was too tame a target: “We can do this much quicker and faster. This is the biggest issue facing us but there is not the passion needed to ensure the change that is needed takes place.
“If you don’t get a grip right now and if you don’t change you are digging the graves of your grandchildren”.
He said that insurers “need to be the carrot and they need to be the stick” by embracing new materials and techniques while scrutinising existing buildings and construction techniques more critically and through the lens of climate change.
The insurance perspective was added by Joanne Foley, head of construction for Europe at WTW.
She said insurers were ready to tackle new risks, such as electric vehicles, recycling and renewable energy but price could be a barrier: “Is sustainability just too expensive”, she asked.
Data will be key but the lack of it was holding back the acceptance of new materials and construction techniques: “The insurance industry is a bit scared of insurability. There is a lack of data on innovative materials and methods and that is too scary for many insurers”, she said.
Each table had a mixture of Insurers and Constructors and over dinner they were challenged to find responses to these challenges. These were shared with the rest of the audience in a feedback session skilfully facilitated by Branko Bjelobaba.