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A unified call to action: Transforming the Built Environment through Inclusion

Posted: 6th June 2024

‘Joined up leadership for an inclusive built environment’ report emphasises the critical importance of cross-sector collaboration in fostering a diverse and equitable built environment sector.

UCEM has published a report titled ‘Joined up leadership for an inclusive built environment’ recommending reforms to help the sector work more cohesively to increase the recruitment, retention and success of those from an array of diverse backgrounds.

This report captures the outcomes of collaborative discussions held at UCEM's most recent ‘INSPIRE’ event, which was supported by the Construction Leadership Council, Construction Inclusion Coalition, Construction Industry Council and Building People. The event saw the participation of 75 experts from professional bodies, government agencies, academia and industry, all committed to shaping a more inclusive future for the sector.

There was a particular focus on bringing together those involved in sector-wide EDI initiatives to support a strategic approach that avoids duplication of effort, encourages joined-up expert leadership and achieves a ‘one voice’ approach towards EDI strategy in construction and the built environment. Discussions spanned innovative strategies and leadership, existing cross-sectoral equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives and how these could be amplified to embed more inclusive systems and processes throughout the sector, both across its various specialisms and amongst organisations of all sizes.

Although the built environment industry is beginning to diversify, the report identifies several barriers which are holding back progress. These were the lack of aligned standards for the collection of EDI data, members of historically minoritised communities who undertake built environment education or training but then decide not to pursue a long-term career in the sector and the lack of consistent standards concerning EDI policies, practices and behaviours.

Seeking to suggest actions to overcome these barriers, the report proposes:

  • Unified EDI Data Framework: Establishing a sector-wide approach to collecting, sharing, and analysing EDI data, to establish benchmarks laying the groundwork for informed and targeted collective actions
  • Voluntary reporting of key EDI data: Larger employers and major projects should report on areas such as pay gaps, modelled on the UK’s mandatory gender pay gap reporting regime.
  • Cooperation to improve retention of diverse cohorts between education and employment: The sector should consider pan-sector outreach, work experience and professional mentorship schemes to encourage those from marginalised communities in built environment education to join the industry and see it as a long-term career.
  • Embedding of EDI into routine industry practice: Criteria around increasing diversity should be included in processes such as employee appraisal and clients commissioning, or consultants pitching for, built environment projects.
  • Defining EDI standards by professional bodies and education/training providers: Major professional bodies should define EDI standards and competencies, mandated for all practitioners. These standards should be aligned with education/training providers so that these competencies can be incorporated into education and professional qualification curricula.

Identified as a pivotal player, the Construction Leadership Council is set to spearhead the collaborative effort required to translate the report's recommendations into action. Proposed initiatives for 2024 focus on creating a cohesive EDI community within the sector and establishing visible leadership to guide these transformative efforts.

Welcoming the report, Ashley Wheaton, UCEM’s Vice Chancellor, said “There is a huge amount of work across the built environment to make a more equitable, diverse and inclusive sector a reality. Perhaps the challenge is to channel that collaboration and increase its impact via collective action. This report aims to identify opportunities for such collaboration and provide recommendations on how this cooperation could be realised to bring about meaningful change.”

Dr Bola Abisogun OBE, Chair of the Construction Industry Council’s EDI Committee, added, “By uniting diverse voices and viewpoints, we seek to cultivate a collaborative approach towards EDI. The goal of this report was to make proposals to facilitate the synchronising of existing EDI initiatives, enabling them to resonate with a unified and powerful voice, creating a sector that is accessible, equitable and respectful for everyone.”