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Diversity is key to the future success of the property industry

The Bristol Property Inclusion Charter is the first city property inclusion charter in the UK

It was founded in 2019 by Karl Brown, who is a partner in Clarke Willmott’s commercial property team. In this article Karl shares more about what The Bristol Property Inclusion Charter does, and the experiences that led him to founding it. Karl is a panellist at Women in Property‘s upcoming International Women’s Day event on the 8th March. This year’s theme is ‘Working in Partnership for Diversity & Inclusion in the Property & Construction Industry’.

Tell us about your role at Clarke Willmott

When I was growing up as the child of two parents from Jamaica and watching my dad work on building sites for residential developers, little did I realize that one day I would also be working for residential developers. I am a Commercial Property Partner in the Bristol office of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP. My role at Clarke Willmott involves acting for many well – known house builder companies in buying and selling land for residential development and in particular acting on affordable housing sales to housing associations. I count myself as very fortunate to be in a role which is intellectually stimulating but also literally helps projects be delivered on the ground.

What led you to founding The Bristol Property Inclusion Charter?

My parents came to the UK from Jamaica in the 1960s. My mum like many immigrants at that time from the Caribbean qualified and worked as a nurse for the NHS. My dad developed a trade as a plasterer and was part of a generation of immigrants from the Caribbean who not only gave their children a better start in life than they themselves had enjoyed, but made an important contribution towards the construction of houses in the UK to serve the wider population.

The strong work ethic of my parents and the role my father played alongside other immigrants in the house builder sector drove not only my passion for social mobility but also that the property industry be a potential career for all persons regardless of their background. These factors led me to found the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter in November 2019.

The Bristol Property Inclusion Charter

The objective of The Bristol Property Inclusion Charter (“the Charter”) is to drive diversity and inclusion in the Bristol Property sector. Diversity is critical in ensuring that the best talent from all communities work in the property industry. It is also without doubt that the property industry plays not just an important role in the UK economy but also in the very fabric of everyday lives from providing housing, to providing buildings for places of work and also buildings for critical infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. A diverse property industry will be better able to provide for and understand the needs of all stakeholders and communities. A diverse property industry will reduce “group-think” on major decisions affecting the industry. Studies have shown that a diverse range of decision makers in organizations leads to better performance by such organizations.

The Charter started with 16 founder signatory companies/organizations but now has 81 including Avison Young, Bristol City Council, Campbell Reith, Hydrock, LiveWest, Places For People, Redrow, Socius, St Modwen, The Guinness Partnership and Willmott Dixon. The latest signatory is the Bristol Property Agents Association. The Charter promotes collaboration amongst signatories to work together to boost diversity and inclusion in the sector. Events for the Charter have ranged from talks and panel discussions on how to boost diversity and these have included introductions to local social enterprises who might assist signatories in boosting their diversity. Moving forward there are upcoming projects between signatories to boost engagement between the sector and young people.

The work of the Charter is overseen by the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission which I chair and the commission includes persons from different parts of the Bristol property sector.

When watching CNN in 2021 I saw someone mention an old African proverb which was “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” If the property industry works together we can ensure that it succeeds not just for itself but for all stakeholders in our communities.

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