Ethics: at the heart of sustainability

Posted on by melanie

There are a lot of Es in sustainability – environment, energy, efficiency, eco-everything – but legislation changes in 2013 mean that all publicly listed companies must now pay far greater attention to another E that tends to be overlooked. Melanie Thompson of Get Sust! goes in search of the missing E: for Ethics.

We were prepared for the smells, the dust, the noise, the sheer volume of humanity bustling constantly through cramped quasi-medieval streets, and cars and lorries cramming six or more abreast onto massive highways – though the camel carts and elephants were a bit of a shock. But we hadn’t anticipated seeing so much construction work. From the moment we exited Delhi airport on the first leg of a special family trip to India at the end of December it was hard not to think about the construction industry.

It seemed as if every other billboard bore the gaudy logos of internationally renowned cement companies; dodgy electricity cables wound around wobbly-looking scaffolding on every street; new-build projects were ubiquitous – ranging from small vernacular homes squeezed into reclaimed corners of traditional thoroughfares, to massive state-of-the-art hotels and office blocks on the edge of a brand new world-class business district.

Restoration workers

Most striking of all were the open-air brick factories dotted along the roadsides in the more rural areas, with row upon row of terracotta-coloured bricks laid out to dry. These 21st-century building blocks closely resemble the local stone used to build the dramatic red Mogul citadel of Fatehpur Sikri which, our guide was keen to explain, features the 16th century’s answer to natural ventilation and passive cooling – using solar shading, water features and wind-catcher design (see Asif Ali, Passive cooling and vernacularism in Mughal buildings in North India: A source of inspiration for sustainable development, International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies, October 2012).

But it was only when we returned to England that the real significance of the countless brick factories and the donkeys outside the citadel – quaintly acting as hod-carriers, as they must have done since the days when the Mogul palace was built – struck home.

A documentary by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawksley broadcast on From Our Own Correspondent (BBC Radio 4, 4 January 2014) highlighted the desperate conditions faced by … (read the full article on the NBS Sustainability hub)

Donkeys carrying bricks


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