The Future is Human

7 Feb 2020

Policy area: Sustainability

MIPIM 2020 will soon be upon us and with a new Parliament – and a Government with a  strong  mandate putting an end to the political stalemate that’s gripped our nation for too many years – the UK real estate industry could perhaps be forgiven for descending on the south of France this year with a renewed vigour and sense of opportunity.

That energy will be much needed. The world around us is changing fast, and we – like other business sectors – are also expected to change fast. Business as usual is simply not an option.  

Inequality and climate change continue to dominate headlines, and while our industry is making huge efforts to demonstrate leadership and increase our social and economic impact in the most responsible and sustainable way, we are still only at the beginning of this journey.

That’s why I think this year’s MIPIM conference theme is spot on – the future is indeed human.

It will be our people who drive the change our industry is going through, and their creativity and commitment will find solutions to the challenges facing us. People are the key to unlocking the ambitions of the BPF’s Redefining Real Estate strategy and campaign, our long-term action plan to  deliver better ‘net positive’ outcomes in local communities, help create a productive economy that delivers for everyone in the UK, attract and nurture a diverse and skilled workforce, and respond to the global climate emergency.

Our industry builds the places across the country where all of us live, work and relax, enabling both economic and social wellbeing, supporting quality of life and most, if not all, other business sectors – and so it is critical that we have the right people and skills to deliver and innovate for the future as the world around us and our customer needs continue to change.

This is why we recently joined the CBI and other organisations representing the whole of the UK economy in a letter to the Home Secretary to offer our support in designing a new immigration system in a way that commands public support, yet supports the UK’s global ambitions and our nation’s economic and social wellbeing. Fair and sustainable immigration is critical for growth across the UK.  

While recent announcements have increased optimism about how a system might work – a new two-year post-study work visa for international students, dropping the target to reduce net migration and signals that the £30,000 minimum salary test may change are welcome and have sent positive signals – we must continue to remind the Government and all of our stakeholders that real estate and construction are dependent on access to skilled labour.

Of course we cannot and should not rely on immigration to supply our workforce. Attracting and nurturing domestic talent is critical to a sustainable, healthy future for real estate – and we, and many other organisations, are working hard to reach young people from all backgrounds and change their perceptions of a career in real estate.  

BPF Futures, our network for young industry professionals, is one example of how we are trying to support our future leaders and we were delighted to recently welcome Homes England’s roster of junior talent to the BPF Futures community. Now and in the future the public and private sectors will need to work together to find solutions to shared challenges.

It is critical that we continue to drive momentum behind these ambitions, and I look forward to working with all of our partners to celebrate our successes and challenge ourselves to do more at MIPIM this year.

By Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation