Last month, professionals from across the built environment gathered online for the annual Harris Debate. Chaired by Lord Bichard KCB, the Harris Debate 2020 featured talks and panel discussions on a variety of ethical issues. These included the social value and impact of cities, how to deliver an award-winning social impact project and the role of “truth” in business.

“For a long time, the success of our profession was measured against commercial success. More recently, increased attention to the issues of inclusion, sustainability and social impact has changed this approach. To remain successful, organisations now need to increasingly assess the long-term impact of their practices and actions.”


1. The changing city landscape: advising on social value and impact

In this opening talk, Sophie Chick – Director of World Research at Savills – explored the resilience of cities in the face of change. She examined the impact that working from home could have on the commercial property market, and she noted how the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already taking place.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion, chaired by Lord Bichard. Here, Sophie Chick was joined by Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser at the Centre of Economics and Business Research, and Kerry Gibbs, Partner at Gardiner & Theobald.

2. Case study: delivering an award-winning social impact project

Jonny Anstead, Director of TOWN, talked through his development company’s cohousing community project, Marmalade Lane. This highly successful project was winner of the RICS Social Impact Awards 2020. In his talk, Anstead went through the creative thinking and cooperation that was required to find the best solutions for the community and make them a reality.

3. Exploring the truth value – the ethical and moral implications

In this final part of the Harris Debate 2020, panellists explored the value of “truth” in business and the importance of trust. Taking part alongside Lord Bichard was Vicky Pryce, Kerry Gibbs and Christine O’Rourke, Head of Conduct Standards at RICS.

Eight years of exploring ethics at the Harris Debate

Ethical issues have been on the agenda ever since the Harris Debate began, eight years ago. Times may have changed since then, but discussing ethical issues remains as important as ever.

Indeed, at this year’s event Lord Bichard highlighted the role that the Harris Debate plays in keeping the conversation going, and keeping professionalism and ethics front of mind.

Jonathan Harris comments: “By discussing these vital issues, we can work together to find solutions. We can take responsibility for our impact, and ensure that the benefits of an ethical and professional approach can be felt by all.”

The yearly Harris Debate was established in 2013 to recognise the unique contribution made by Jonathan Harris CBE FRICS to CPD and lifelong learning. Jonathan was President of RICS in 2000/2001 and is Founder & Chairman of the Harris Foundation for Lifelong Learning.