Environment, Equalities and the Economy
Many of us in Scotland, take our local environment – our countryside, parks, beaches, public and shared spaces, streets and roads for granted. We understand the importance of keeping our countryside, neighbourhoods, communities and local environment clean and rubbish free and we all know only too well the negative effect that fly tipping, dumping, dog fouling and litter can have on our lives, community and on our health and well-being. But many of us in civic society then fail to connect with the ownership of the issue, seeing it as someone else’s job or an unwinnable task of converting hearts and minds.
However, evidence now shows that local environmental quality is a fundamental aspect of achieving community well-being, social justice, civic equality and economic growth in Scotland.
Tomorrow at a gathering of over two hundred local environmental specialists, a little known but vitally important national survey is published taking evidence from – “Scotland’s National Cleanliness Index”. Working with 32 local authorities across Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful has conducted over 150,000 environmental surveys over the last 10 years that monitor and assess the quality of the local environment – areas where we live, work, play and promote to visitors and international tourists.
The Report and Conference highlights the importance of the quality of the external space where people live and work and outlines how within Scotland civic “incivilities” are currently impacting physical and mental health, education attainment and life chances. Case studies and contributions from communities and businesses across Scotland also highlight the importance that potential inward investors and employers place on the cleanliness of workplace locations. The evidence shows that clean, safe communities are good for business and for the people who live there.
The Report also contributes to the body of evidence that highlights the link between the quality of our environment and economic performance and equalities. In 2011, I invited Mayor Rudi Giuliani of New York City to visit Glasgow, to share his insights and learnings on the key factors that make a city economically successful. Central to Mayor Giuliani’s economic development approach, was the application of the “broken windows” theory. The theory that a seemingly minor issue like broken windows in abandoned buildings leads directly to a more serious deterioration of neighbourhoods. Giuliani effectively used this principal to stop and control a range of incivilities from graffiti and littering through to serious criminal offences. It underpinned his city economic growth strategy. By focusing on the detail, by understanding what impacted people’s daily lives in New York it enabled him and his administration to deliver better and informed leadership and strategic economic decision making.
In Scotland, in recent years we have made significant progress in improving the quality of where we live and work. Working in partnership, with clear and agreed objectives and standards, Scotland’s local and city authorities have embedded the “broken windows” principle in much of their work. Clearly identifying the link between community safety and the quality of the local environment with economic growth and development. Tomorrow’s event in Glasgow, presents an opportunity to showcase that work, to focus on future challenges and priorities and to agree a set of measures and actions that support communities and our citizen’s quality of life.
The Report highlights that we have made significant progress in Scotland in recent years, but comes with the caveat that we now need a Giuliani style strategic cabinet approach to deliver the full economic return on the civic investment that is currently being made in Scotland’s local environment.
Professor Lesley Sawers, is Executive Chair of GenAnalytics Ltd, a people science consultancy using data, analytics and insights to improve business and organisational performance linked to equalities and diversity. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lesley is also Chair of the #LEQNETWORK Conference 15th March 2016, Glasgow