Focus. The best-laid plans of mice and men really do oft go astray.

When I started this short series of blogs around the natty theme of fore/four words for the New Year I was filled with good intentions – a new word a week, a new ‘thought’. Easy.

But I got distracted.

Stuff got in the way. Important stuff. Or at least urgent stuff. OK. Maybe, just stuff.

Ironic really, since my second blog was always going to be around Focus, and the need to concentrate on the stuff that really matters, with resolution, and determination.

I’m not sure that my best laid plans going astray left me as ol’ Rabbie Burns would have it with “nought but grief an’ pain”, but is a bit embarrassing, because when it comes to impact ( the subject of my first blog) focus really matters.


“Net Zero”, “Zero Waste”

In my last blog, I touched on the exciting growth in interest within our industry on social impact. Discussion of the ‘S’ in ESG, is everywhere. Indeed, some companies are putting their desire to deliver positive societal impact on a similar footing to their ambitions for sustainability and carbon impact.

But while in sustainability, there are perhaps clearer rallying cries to action – “Net Zero”, “Zero Waste”, there’s no equivalent for social impact.

It’s left very much to each of us to consider what we do, and where we do it. Unsurprising and understandable then that for many of us, the social impact we achieve is specific to the communities in which we operate. Where we can see it, and where our stakeholders can too.

While community investment programmes are almost always a “Good Thing”, they are intrinsically limited in scope – often to a (sometimes small) geographical area and invariably by the sums available.

If Covid has taught us anything, it is that there are many pressing social problems and challenges that extend way beyond our own neighbourhoods. And way beyond the scope of any single business to tackle on its own.

These can only be tackled through collective action. And our industry is uniquely well placed to deliver collective action.

Homelessness generally and youth homelessness, specifically, is one such social ‘problem’. And, as it happens, it is the principle focus of industry-charity, LandAid.

Centrepoint, the youth homelessness charity, revealed just last week that 122,000 young people approached their local authority seeking help either because they were homeless or were at risk of homelessness.

While young people tragically experience homelessness in every part of the country, our industry fortunately works in every part of the country. This means there are opportunities to engage the property industry in cities, towns and rural areas right across the UK to help provide safe, secure homes for young people.

You can have an impact.

There’s a gardening analogy I like to use, involving a hosepipe. If you’ve stood watering pots or your garden with a hose, and played with the nozzle, changing the setting from ‘Mist’ to ‘Jet’, you’ll know what I mean. ‘Mist’ setting gets stuff damp, eventually, but with the more focused, intense ‘Jet’ setting you soak things super quickly, you can dig holes with the stream of water, move stones….

You can have an impact.

To achieve social impact, real, massive social impact, you need to focus. To tackle and help end youth homelessness, we need to really focus.

Doing so will bring us together as an industry. It will give us a collective, corporate social purpose. And it will demonstrate to ourselves and to our communities the massive value we can add to the buildings we create and the places we make.

This is stuff that really matters.

But with resolution, determination, and, yes, focus, it is also stuff we can make happen.