Leading Voices Inspire Attendees at Our _shift 2023 Conference

On November 9th, Space Group hosted their annual _shift conference in Newcastle upon Tyne, drawing hundreds of in-person and online attendees. The conference brought together key players, industry leaders and "empowered agents of change" to discuss strategies for decarbonising the built environment. 

CEO Rob Charlton welcomed the attendees at the beginning of the day. He emphasised the conference's significance, reminding everyone about the severe climate events that have occurred globally over the past year. Rob then spoke of the role we must play over the next twelve months and the actions we must take towards preserving the planet.

Chris Hines, Owner of A Grain of Sand and Former Sustainability Director of the Eden Project, chaired the event and spoke of upping the pace, with the content of the day reflecting the urgency of the climate crisis. He provided a rundown of the programme and started proceedings by inviting his long-time friend, climate writer, campaigner, and activist, Jonathon Porritt CBE, to the stage.

Jonathon- known for his talent of speaking truths- did just that at _shift. He spoke about where the climate story is to date based on science, policy and technology. In his hour-long keynote presentation, Jonathon structured his talk similar to a Q&A, alternating between discussing various subject matters to fielding questions from the audience. He moved on to speak directly to the difficulties facing the industry, such as the many questions we have about low-carbon imperatives. A master at work, Jonathon captivated everyone in the room and online.

After Jonathon, Eszter Gulacsy, Technical Director of Mott MacDonald, brought industry-focused expertise and technical excellence to the floor. Speaking directly to an audience that included construction industry professionals, Eszter spoke of the necessity of systems-level thinking in relation to circular economy adoption. She spoke of learning from other industries and the need for greater transparency across the board.

Following on from a short coffee break, attendees rushed back to their seats to hear from Steve Malkin, Founder of PlanetMark. Steve opened by speaking on the inspiration Jonathon Porritt played in his life which led him to make a major career change. He elaborated on this due to a similar moment shared with one of the _shift attendees during the break. He continued, talking about the wonders of working in sustainability, creating moments that ignite passions and steer meaningful change. Steve discussed corporate responsibility as he spoke of looking beyond net zero, highlighting the need for regenerative business.

Chris Hines then welcomed Client Directors of Mannaz, Nicky Thompson and Joakim Eriksson, who spoke to the importance of inspirational leadership and how we as individuals can take the necessary steps towards overcoming the challenges we face. Following on, Nicki Clark OBE of UMi joined Steve and Nicky on a panel titled "Planet Friendly Business: Effective Strategies to Positively Impact the Planet".

During the afternoon session, Gabe Davies, Patagonia's Ocean Marketing Manager, delivered an inspiring keynote speech about the company's exceptional work as a leading force in climate action. His heartwarming personality shone through as he spoke about Patagonia's commitment to quality and how it can help save the planet. He shared valuable insights from their campaigns and the lessons they have learned over the years whilst showcasing the forward-thinking initiatives Patagonia runs worldwide.

The final panel of the day was chaired by Chris Hines and featured two young founders of analytics-driven companies, Tom Bunn of re:new and Phanos Hadjikyriakou of 2050 Materials. Our very own Catherine Sinclair, a Northumbria University KTP Associate and Specialist Net Zero Architect of SPACE, also sat on the panel. Each spoke on the direction the industry must take and the protocols and policies that must be set out to improve built environment processes. The panellists' insights centred on building a better future through innovative technology, data-driven solutions, and increasing the overall awareness of environmentally friendly alternatives.

During his concluding remarks, Rob Charlton revisited a powerful quote from Gabe Davies' presentation, "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together."

We at SPACE- and along with the entire Space Group family- believe it is our collective power and responsibility to save the planet whilst motivating others in the industry to follow suit. _shift 2023 was an influential step towards achieving this, and we hope to have left attendees with a renewed sense of urgency and empowerment.

We look forward to reuniting for _shift 2024 to continue the conversation and propel further action.