I have just returned from a fascinating trip walking in Napoleon’s footsteps. Those who know me might think I have an unhealthy obsession with this diminutive leader, but I have always taken an interest in how people can succeed despite not fitting normal perceptions – in Napoleon’s case, of a general.
As part of my walk, I also logged my steps because I’m part of a group of 12 CEOs that have been taking part in LandAid’s Steptober challenge to raise money to end youth homelessness.
The industry I have known for almost 40 years is a force for good. We are doing amazing work to create new communities, regenerate towns and cities and invest in infrastructure such as homes and places where people live, work and play. In addition, our industry is generous in supporting not only LandAid but many other charitable causes.
At Grainger, we have many elderly residents and we work with Age UK to better understand and serve their needs. We also take part in LandAid events such as the SleepOut to better understand youth homelessness.
Sadly, our industry is not seen in a very good light, as the recent Populus survey commissioned by the BPF shows. Who we are and what we do are not well known. There is little understanding of the social value we create and a lack of trust in our industry, which is why the presidential team at the BPF has chosen ‘redefining real estate’ as its theme over four years to deliver a real step change.
Our industry is facing structural changes and we all need to step up and do more. We need to step up for our customers to ensure our buildings remain relevant, occupied and flexible. We need to step up and provide training through apprenticeships and graduate schemes, so improving access and diversity. We need to step up and do more in our communities and build trust. And we need to step up to safeguard the environment, use resources more sustainably and tackle carbon emissions.
While I was walking in Napoleon’s footsteps, Regenerating Cities, an essay collection that is the creation of Waheed Nazir, corporate director of economy at Birmingham City Council, was launched. In it, 10 authors from the property industry including Sir Howard Bernstein, Tony Pidgley of Berkeley, David Partridge of Argent and me provide a snapshot of what can be achieved with a core set of values and a commitment to deliver change.
These essays show the remarkable things our industry has delivered and I hope that in a time of political turmoil we will not pause but instead step up and support the country in building resilience to cope with uncertainty.
Helen Gordon is president of the BPF and chief executive of Grainger