Be the change you want to see!

By Paul Morrish, Chief Executive of LandAid

Off to MIPIM 2020? First time? Good luck! Enjoy!

When I was appointed Chief Executive at LandAid, five years ago, no one told me about MIPIM. To be fair, no one told me I’d be strongly encouraged to throw myself into our fundraising challenges quite so energetically either. No mention of tough mudders, abseiling off tower blocks, nor cycling the length and breadth of the country, But they certainly didn’t mention MIPIM.

Perhaps that wasn’t surprising, LandAid is a charity that works to end youth homelessness. In the last three years we’ve been able to provide funding for over 500 homes for young people right around the UK.

The link, of course, is that every penny we raise comes from individuals and companies working exclusively in the property and construction industries. We couldn’t do what we do without the industry. In return, we help the industry work together to tackle youth homelessness and we champion those within the industry who want property to be a force for good.

So, this year’ll be my fourth MIPIM, and I’m beginning to feel like a veteran. But I remember distinctly what it all felt like first time round.

You’ll already have jumped the initial hurdles. You’ve managed to blag a place on the company’s MIPIM team; you’ve persuaded your husband or wife, that “Yes, it is work!”; you’ve got an Airbnb 10 miles from the Croisette that was so expensive you daren’t submit the invoice; and you’ve just worked out what the Croisette is.

Now you’ve just got to prepare. Business cards, comfortable shoes and a target list of clients you want to fit into your already disturbingly busy-looking schedule (for the full packing list check here).

And then of course there’s the reputation, and for many the reality, of MIPIM. Despite an impressive smorgasbord of thought-provoking content delivered by some of the most interesting, well-informed and thoughtful players in property, it is other appetites that grab the headlines.

Although the vast majority of the 26,000 delegates who arrive in Cannes in March behave impeccably, there are still too many who don’t, and who disgrace themselves, their companies, and the industry.

But, as Mahatma Gandhi so beautifully put it, you need to “be the change in the world you want to see”.

And there’s change afoot.

The profit imperative has not gone away (it never will). But barely a day goes past without another company outlining its social impact, or social value. Even investors are starting to ask, “But what difference will this really make?”

The industry has always been generous. There have always been charity days, bake sales, fundraising events, and charity partnerships. And the sums raised are not inconsiderable.

But what we are noticing at LandAid is that, finally, companies are treating their relationships to charities, and the work they do, with similar rigour they do other commercial decisions. They’re not looking simply to sign an oversize cheque for a good cause. They’re looking to make a difference, to have an impact. They want things to change, to get better. Their engagement with charities is a means to an end – not the end in itself.

LandAid works across our industry to end youth homelessness. We don’t partner with just one company, or even several companies. We work with over 160 companies and our ambition is to work with the whole industry. We are very clear about the impact we want to achieve, and how we intend to achieve that impact. Over the last three years, and with your support, we’ve provided around 500 homes for young people who’ve been homeless – in every part of the UK- enabling them to study, train, work, fall in love, and get on with their lives.

This has a huge impact. And it is an impact you enable us to effect.

At LandAid, whatever the headlines and the surveys may say, and notwithstanding the industry’s undoubted challenges, we know there’s much to be proud of as a property professional.

Ultimately, however, much will be down to you.

If you long for this industry to be the professional, progressive, successful force for good you know it can be, go to MIPIM, but be that industry. Do deals but talk to the person standing on their own trying not to look lonely. Network with your contacts but be curious and open to new ideas. Find your ‘familiar’ but challenge the orthodox. Have a glass of wine with colleagues but sit and talk to someone who actually lives in Cannes.

More than that, use the extraordinary opportunity of MIPIM to find out what the industry is doing to genuinely make the world a better place, and challenge it to do it faster. Exchange business cards but ask about sustainability. Attend panel discussions but ask about social value. Change the conversational dial and get talking about social good and why the property industry should be measured by it as much as by profit.

And if you run out of things to say, you can always ask: “So what do you do to support LandAid – the charity uniting the property industry to end youth homelessness?”

MIPIM UK – The major themes this year

MIPIM UK took place last week at Old Billingsgate, revealing the biggest themes from the real estate industry from the past few months and predicting what we can expect from the sector within the next year.

The two-day event began with Esther McVey’s keynote speech on the UK needing to build 300,000 homes per year by mid-2020’s to help end the housing crisis – a target which, according to The Times, is almost double the amount of new homes built in 2018. McVey continued her keynote speech by outlining her plans to create a planning “A team” to achieve the ambitious target. The A team of specialist planners will help councils accelerate the progress on projects with their specialist skills and technical know-how, which should help move on the progress with struggling schemes.

The housing minister also stated that within the next 10 years, the UK should aim to become the world leader in modular construction. She acknowledged its benefits of it being “less inconvenient and noisy for local residents” as well as providing “more certainty during construction”.  Its advantages seem to be recognised globally as this modern method of construction is being embraced in many countries. In Japan, Sekisui House, built 43,735 modular homes in 2018 and Sweden built just under half of its homes off-site. By comparison,  the UK currently builds around 15,000 modular homes per year, and the government will therefore need to commit to the modern method of construction if it is serious about becoming a world leader.

The inevitable topic of Brexit was also touched upon, Dr Nicole Lux mentioned that German banks are withholding investment from the UK due to the uncertainty in the economy. German banks are one of the UK’s biggest lenders for new commercial property opportunities, this could therefore pose a problem of raising capital for new development. However, Erik Sonden, Senior Advisier at DTZ, framed this uncertainty as a “short term transition period”, and explained that London has little to worry about as its grandeur and strong position as an investment market are enough to retain investors.         

As the day progressed towards industry trends, it’s no surprise that traditional commercial office space was said to be a thing of the past. With more and more  companies moving toward co-working spaces, serviced offices and/or agile working policies, all of which take into consideration the well-being of employees. Juliette Morgan, Head of Campus at British Land, attributed the future of the office space to hospitality, highlighting that landlords need to continue to treat occupiers as consumers rather than just tenants, through areas that stimulate employees rather than just a “sea of white desks”. Juliette finished by summarising the next big trends in the industry including zones that block Wi-Fi and have spaces for education, pointing to the fact that  consumers’ needs in the workplace are changing and offices are no longer about just place but quality.

This is the same in the retail sector. Despite the reported decrease in consumer confidence, Ben Rogers, Director at Centre for London, provided an interesting insight, stating that “Retail is not dying – bad retail is dying”. In order for the physical retail environment to compete with the online world, stores need to provide consumers with an experience, rather than the usual monotonous store visit. Through delivering a unique offering, this point of difference should generate more customer loyalty, helping brands stay competitive.   

With design now being centred around the people that inhabit the place rather than just the space, the future of the built environment looks more promising than ever to deliver more user orientated places. We look forward to seeing how these themes will develop when we all meet again at MIPIM Cannes 2020.