Voluntary, by agreement

Let’s face it, we know that things improve through knowledge, technology and ingenuity. Sometimes slowly, other times at break-neck speed.

And we do seem to be in a speedy phase at the moment, with the pace of technological innovation and in particular through the application of digital elements to analogue systems showing no signs of slowing up.

For some time I’ve held the view (which I’m continually challenging and testing) that it isn’t industry that should look to Government for the lead, but rather governments that need to keep pace with industry. Over the next ten years, the critical factor for businesses will be keeping up with the pace of change driven by their peers, their competitors, their suppliers and their shareholders - not to mention the pressure brought to bear by external stakeholders and, increasingly, employees.

Whether it’s the cost of energy, security of supply of materials, ethical and traceability considerations, or consumer wants and needs, times they are a-changing and it’s increasingly difficult for governments to lead through regulation and legislation, particularly in the environment and sustainability space.

Now, I hear some of you scoff at that. "But they’re not even trying!” you holler. It may be the case that a lack of government leadership on green issues is indeed a choice - whether that’s in the UK or the US - but before long, perhaps even already, industry is ahead of the curve on so many issues. In particular, through the adoption of digital technology and the sustainability benefits that some of this brings.

In order for groups of organisations to stay ahead of the curve - industry sub-sectors, co-located or grouped by geography or activity - they would do well to form voluntary agreements to ensure not only that leaders benefit from first mover advantage, but that the sector moves forward at a similar pace, at least overall cost, staying one step ahead of regulatory drivers and expensive, regressive knee-jerk responses. But be warned: if you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it! There are plenty of examples of industry groups taking an advanced position and thriving through managing change at their own pace (the car industry springs to mind), but equally there are numerous examples where in-fighting and laggardism (yes, that’s now a thing!), or a total lack of industry leadership have scuppered the progress of others and led to restrictive, blunt and poorly aimed legislation.

As resources become more scarce and energy security moves up the agenda, it is in all organisations’ interests to make plans not just for their own businesses but across their supply chains - from banking, investment and insurance to buildings, consultancies and widget manufacturers, right across the infrastructure space.

At Infrastructure Footprint we’re big fans of voluntary agreements, and we’re looking forward to working with some of you to deliver - because action speaks louder than words.

John Twitchen

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