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Sustainable development: why we – literally – can’t afford to get it wrong

The future of investment in real assets is not just a money question. Really, it’s about we go about financing and building a new world in the 21st century: bridging colossal infrastructure gaps, acting to make fast growing cities liveable, and spreading the benefits of economic growth more fairly.

Oliver Parsons, Editor, Modus
22 May 2019

The future of investment in real assets is not just a money question. Really, it's about we go about financing and building a new world in the 21st century: bridging colossal infrastructure gaps, acting to make fast growing cities liveable, and spreading the benefits of economic growth more fairly.

Over the course of the fourth RICS World Built Environment Forum Summit, held in New York in May 2019, the imperative to do all of this in way that is sustainable and resilient, while also taking maximum advantage of technology, became clearer than ever.

Greg Clark CBE, Chairman of The Business of Cities and a panelist at the Summit's closing session, comments on the need for focus, courage and optimism:

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The scale of the challenges that our planet and our human race faces are so significant, that it's a time for sobriety. But it's also time for courage, and making change happen is going to require courage.

Greg Clark CBE
Chairman of The Business of Cities

Clark also stresses that this will mean tackling the issues at hand with diverse approaches to fit the cultures, economies and physical characteristics of every city, building and country – and to avoid at all costs a 'one-size-fits-all' playbook.

"It's no longer possible to talk about the average city or the average building, or the average investor, or the average asset, or the average infrastructure plan or the average governance model," Clark comments. "We are seeing a complete fragmentation of old ways of thinking about these things. And we have to develop a much more sophisticated, much more adaptable and customised understanding of the huge variety of different kinds of cities, investors, real estate assets and infrastructures."

This was a sentiment echoed by Marcene Mitchell, Senior Manager for Climate Business at the World Bank International Finance Corporation: "We cannot develop in the way that the Western world developed: we do not have the resources on this planet. Now, it doesn't mean that we don't have opportunity, it doesn't mean that people can't have access to modern energy. But we have to do it in a different way – and that is an opportunity that can unleash our creativity and innovation."