A university professor and leading expert in renewable building and an international commercial development director have formed a new venture to enable organisations to put a price on social and environmental change and help them make better and more sustainable decisions.
Professor Erik Bichard and Phil Higham have launched North West-based company RealWorth, founded on a new approach called Sustainable Return on Investment (SuROI). SuROI places a monetary value on social and environmental change, enabling clients such as policy makers, developers, investors and planners to tackle inequality and reduce environmental deterioration.
Their aim is to help create a future where everyone’s quality of life is improved because social and environmental impacts are fully valued in every policy, investment and development decision.
Liverpool-based Professor Erik Bichard, university lecturer in regeneration and sustainable development and a former executive director of the UK National Centre for Business and Sustainability, said: “While conventional methods of valuation used by built environment professionals mainly focus on the market-based and the physical, SuROI puts a value on the social and environmental changes experienced by the very people who are affected by policies, investments and development decisions. We do this by focusing on several key areas including health, crime, skills, employment, wellbeing and ecology. “Change is often best understood through the people who experience it. This is why SuROI is a stakeholder-led process.”
Phil Higham, a Manchester-based chartered surveyor, with a career in international development and leadership roles at companies including Laing O’Rourke and Rider Levett Bucknall. “We have always thought that society fails to value the importance of social and environmental factors when making decisions that affect people’s lives. Our business has been created to redress this shortfall.”
The company has already secured a contract with an innovative social enterprise in Pittsburgh that empowers local people to improve the environmental conditions of their under-invested neighbourhoods. Professor Bichard and Phil Higham are also in the final stages of negotiations to be appointed as key advisors to one of the largest mixed use development schemes in the north of England.
News of RealWorth’s innovative approach has also spread to Malmo and Vienna where Professor Bichard has spoken of the need to value things differently to avoid further division in society.