Explore: a personal perspective by Judith Sykes, Useful Simple Trust

Judith Sykes, Senior Director at the Useful Simple Trust, which creates purpose-driven design for our changing environment, joined us on Explore in Scotland last month. Here’s her perspective on how the property industry needs to effect climate action. 



"COP 26 has been looming large for a long time, postponed not once but twice because of COVID. It will finally arrive in Glasgow at the end of October.


Whilst the politicians negotiate pledges and support, the most recent IPPC report demonstrates how far over talking we are, and that time for action has already run out to avoid a long-lasting change to our climate.  They conclude that global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 occur in the coming decades.


Whilst it is easy to despair, this won’t help. We need coalitions of collaborators, inventors and entrepreneurs to continue our decarbonisation path and properly plan the for the future as it unfolds. And this is what I found in my first event with Club Peloton.


Explore is a new event to Club Peloton to mix cycling with talking on matters shaping our profession: on this occasion the climate. It was run in collaboration with the UKGBC and included a mix of built environment professionals. By day we cycled the Border hills of Peebles, and by night we talked carbon, resilience, despair, mobility, hope, EPDs and more despair. We were all thankful to Alistair Mant for ensuring that we finished each evening with a sprinkling of optimism.


Having never ridden in a peloton, under the guidance of Mike Axon, I learnt the rules and the lingo. Encouraged by John Nordon and Sarah Cary, and with James Morgan and Chris Clarke as my wind breaks, I exceeded my personal best by 50% on our 150km long ride on day 3. As our speaker – the round-the-world-record-holding cyclist Mark Beaumont said – don’t seek to beat a record, aim to smash it. And this I did. But it’s not the individual achievement that mattered, it was that collectively we performed better as a peloton.


The metaphor for climate action was instantly clear. We need to move together as an industry – strong leaders blazing a trail, creating a slipstream for the rest to keep close. We need to aim high and move towards a rapid reinvention of our economy for the benefit of our environment and wellbeing. This requires setting bold ambitions and having courage to put forward challenging alternatives. We need to be generous with our ideas so that all may benefit, a value that sits at the core of our organisation the Useful Simple Trust, to shape the industry we work in.


As the media fills with COP talk, we must remember it’s not just what we say, it’s what we do.


Onwards, chapeau."


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