When I first sat down to write my blog I did so with a growing frustration. Following the failure of COP 27 to agree any actions to reduce CO2 further, the world is on target for a 2.7oC temperature rise, the impact of which will be disastrous for many, maybe even for all people. Why can’t all of us as individuals, societies, countries and leaders take bold action to protect the planet, our children, grandchildren and future generations? After writing several angry paragraphs and built up my feelings of shame, I put it aside for a couple of days and slept on the problem.

What came to me was not a revelation but a simple remembering. Only three weeks ago I was involved in a webinar and I remember saying “Design to Value represents an ‘and’ rather than an ‘or’…”. The reason why it seems so hard to take choices which will protect us in the longer term is that we believe that to do so will lessen or lives, our livelihoods, our success in the short term. We feel we have strived hard to get what we have, companies and investors have got used to the revenues generated, we have all benefitted from the growth of technology and cheap energy and the offer on the table seems to involve us giving these things up; the ‘OR’ feels oppressive.

What flooded into my mind then were the many examples, some experienced personally and some simply read about, that have demonstrated that we can have our cake AND eat it. May be its not exactly the same cake, but just as, or even more delicious. The idea of Exquisite Design captures, exactly, this concept. There are solutions and choices out there that can protect and repair and restore the ecosystem; and deliver fantastic experiences and deliver financial returns. There are ‘ANDs’ the job of everybody is to find them.

The design to value approach, at its heart, is based upon the belief that there are many, many ‘ands’. The range of value drivers from financial, aesthetic, socio-environmental and processual demonstrate the breadth of belief and aspiration. Take the example of the Ministry of Justice prison programme (a case study in our recent book) with multiple aims of investment cost efficiency, running cost efficiency, while reducing the huge social cost of re-offending which comes with an £18Billion a year price tag to the UK economy. There was even a proposal to develop the building technology so that inmates could be involved in the programme, building their skills, and making them more employable once released.

And there are technologies being developed now that can produce net carbon negative concrete, this would have offered the Ministry of Justice programme the possibility of a carbon negative prison as well as delivering all the other benefits.

What we also forget is a fact that should motivate us and give us hope. Renewable energy is lower in cost than fossil fuels. That’s lower in cost! To put that in context, if the quantity of electricity used by the UK about 320 Bn KWh per year was moved from gas to offshore wind the saving would be £126Billion per year. If you wanted a 5-year pay back with such a saving, you could afford to invest over £600Billion. There is a direct synergy between financial return and moving to renewable energy. 

The payback, the value generated for doing the right thing on the environment is immense, in monetary terms and in our living environment and in protection of people and biodiversity; and in feeling that we are part of a generation that acted and made the world a better place for everybody. These are things in our power and reach. We can reap the hard-won benefits of technology and freedoms while at the same time repairing the world.

Professor John Dyson spent more than 25 years at GlaxoSmithKline, eventually ending his career as VP, Head of Capital Strategy and Design, where he focussed on developing a long-term strategic approach to asset management.
While there, he engaged Bryden Wood and together they developed the Front End Factory, a collaborative endeavour to explore how to turn purpose and strategy into the right projects – which paved the way for Design to Value. He is committed to the betterment of lives through individual and collective endeavours.
As well as his business and pharmaceutical experience, Dyson is Professor of Human Enterprise at the University of Birmingham, focussing on project management, business strategy and collaboration.
Additionally, he is a qualified counsellor with a private practice and looks to bring the understanding of human behaviour into business and projects.
To learn more about our Design to Value philosophy, read Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology by Professor John Dyson, Mark Bryden, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Available to purchase at RIBA Books here.