29 August 2019

The sector's 5 greatest sustainability challenges

During this week, Per Löfgren took up his post as the new Sustainability Manager at the urban development company, Tyréns. He comes from his previous post as sustainability manager at JM. Per points out the opportunities for creating long-term sustainable societies and lists the five greatest sustainability challenges facing the urban development sector.

"Sustainability management is about putting humanity's needs at centre stage of societal development. Creating economic values in a way that simultaneously creates values for society. Sustainability is, and must be, a key word in all societal development."

So says Tyréns' new Sustainability Manager, Per Löfgren. He has worked with sustainability issues for almost twenty years and sees how the term has led to a new view in society of corporate responsibility. He also considers that the urban development sector holds a unique position for creating long-term sustainable solutions to society's most important challenges.

"Sustainability management is about putting humanity's needs at centre stage of societal development. Creating economic values in a way that simultaneously creates values for society. Sustainability is, and must be, a key word in all societal development."

Per Löfgren, Tyréns' new Sustainability Manager

"We can make a great difference," Per says. "But, with the potential, there also comes a great responsibility and, for me, it is clear that Tyréns is at the cutting edge as one of the sharpest urban development companies, which is both clearly value driven and with a clear vision of what it wants."

Sustainability is a broad term. The UN's goals for economic, social and ecological sustainability cover all aspects of society. Per sees that there is a danger that a term so broad could end up meaning everything and nothing. For this reason, he emphasises the importance of setting specific targets and focusing on the areas where it is possible to make a real difference.

In the urban development sector, he points out five crucial sustainability challenges:

1) Climate neutrality The construction sector accounts for a fifth of Sweden's climate emissions. In the governmental initiative, Fossil Free Sweden, Tyréns, together with other representatives of the sector, has produced a route map for how the construction and civil engineering sector can be carbon neutral by 2045. 

2) Sustainable urban development A sustainable society presumes that everyone can afford housing and their subsistence. Many Swedish towns suffer from a lack of housing, something that both risks obstructing economic growth and creating social gulfs that may take a long time to repair.

3) More efficient planning and building process. More than 600,000 homes have to be built by 2025. Today, it can take a long time from the construction idea to the start of building and residents moving in. One precondition for solving the lack of housing and increasing the rate of construction is an efficient planning and construction process, for example by allowing construction actors to take greater responsibility and run the detailed planning work in close cooperation with the municipalities.

4) Sustainable use of materials. Today, we have an unsustainable use of materials in society. We need to take an increased social responsibility in our supply chains, create circular and toxin free material flows as well as to be smarter about how we design and use materials and buildings more efficiently.

5) Equality of opportunity and safe workplaces. Everyone should feel welcome in the sector, otherwise we risk losing valuable skills as a consequences of biased recruitment. We must also be able to guarantee a secure workplace for everybody, with the aim of the zero vision of no one being injured in our workplaces.

"At Tyréns, there is the competence to meet all of these challenges. Moreover, the form of ownership – Tyréns is owned by a foundation – means that we can invest consciously in innovation, research and development, frequently in close cooperation with universities and colleges. In such an environment, the best opportunities are created for supporting the sector's various actors in driving the development in the direction of society's ambitious targets for sustainability," Per says.

Tyréns' Sweden Manager, Cecilia Granath, emphasises the importance of making investments that lead to genuine change.

"We are working on sustainability in earnest! When we, at Tyréns, carry out assignments with our customers, we bear a great responsibility for sustainability. For this reason, we have, in our R&D activities, produced a sustainability tool that we use in our assignments. This tool allows us to capture the sustainability work from many aspects and throughout the whole process. Minimising the climate impact is central, but just as important are the social aspects. With Per as our Sustainability Manager, we are sharpening our sustainability work even more, with the goal of being a good example for the rest of the sector," Cecilia Granath says.