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In June 2021 we became an Aotearoa employee owned business, and that fresh start was a chance to take stock. We applied for B Corp certification because while we thought we were a good business, we wanted a rigorous standard to make sure we’re doing right by our people, our community, and our environment.
At the same time, we decided we wanted to get really clear on who we are as a business, why we’re here, and the kind of work we will (and won’t) do.
We have a dream
Well, it’s more a vision. A vision of cities in Aotearoa as places that support the wellbeing of people and the environment. We want to see streets where children can roam independently and local centres that support local communities. A transport system in which all kinds of trips are easy to make by foot, bike, bus or train. And a city where people can access all they need, no matter where they live or their personal circumstances.
When you prioritise the environment and the wellbeing of communities, you have to make tough choices. So, we only work on transport projects that rethink how we provide access to make transport healthy, equitable, and better for the environment.
Because of our commitment to creating a sustainable transport system based on access, we won’t work on projects that simply extend our current car-dependent status quo.
The people we want to be
We created this vision not just because we care about the future but because we want to wake up in the morning and feel good about what we do. Part of that is also how we behave.
We promise to:
Ultimately, it’s about integrity. Because we’re committed to positive impact, we’re happy to challenge you if a project’s not going to deliver good outcomes for the environment or your community. You can trust us to back the greater good.
Why we’re drawing a line in the sand
It’s a tough truth, but some of the societal and environmental issues we face as a community are a result of work undertaken by our sector in the past. We built transport systems that prioritised cars. Now we’ve a collective responsibility to contribute to the solution.
Transport is a critical contributor to climate change. In Aotearoa alone transport is one of our largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 17% of our emissions.
And it’s not just about the environment. Our current transport system is inequitable. We've designed a transport system where you have to have a car to get around. That locks people into car dependency and excludes young and old, disabled people, and people who lack resource to own a car. You shouldn’t need a car to participate fully in our community.
Car-dependent transport systems are bad for us all. We get communities spread thinly across the landscape, where people are forced to use a car to get around, and valuable city space is lost to carparking. To invest in roads, we sacrifice investment in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure, which makes these options less convenient, safe, and comfortable.
Aotearoa needs a transport system based on access.
Replacing our current car-dependent system with a car-independent system will reduce transport emissions and other environmental damage, improve people’s health and wellbeing, make transport cheaper, and improve equity of access. We all need this to be a priority.
The transport industry has the power to influence change, but our commitment to change is inconsistent. There can be a disconnect between our words and our actions.
We see businesses saying they’re committed to the environment but taking on projects that prioritise cars. We see companies promoting walking, cycling, and public transport, but also working on projects which undermine positive social and environmental outcomes.
Fundamentally, the climate crisis demands the transport and urban planning sector rethink our approach to transport projects. Often, the best solution won’t be building more or building new, but repurposing infrastructure we already have in more efficient, effective ways. And that’s challenging for our industry because there’s going to be a lot less easy money to be made.
Not going to lie, I am a bit scared
Putting our purpose out there feels momentous. We’re not virtue signalling or value posturing. We’re taking a very real stand that we understand is going to have real implications for who we work with. And as the MD of MRCagney, it’s a bit frightening, because most firms don't draw the line, and say this is work we won’t do.
Sometimes we're accused of being too strongly weighted to certain outcomes. And that’s been a head scratcher for us. We’ve asked ourselves if we’re successfully balancing being objective consultants with being advocates for sustainable, equitable transport.
But the thing is, we’re not anti-car. We’re anti-car dependence, and we’re anti the negative environmental and social outcomes of decades of car dependent planning. And that’s an objective stance, based on hard data.
As I said at the beginning, our focus on sustainable transport is nothing new. We already turn work down. One of the challenges we have as an organisation is we’d make a lot more money if we agreed with our clients more of the time. Our purpose is us coming to peace with that.
We’d love your feedback
We wrote our purpose for us, so we’re crystal clear about who we are and why we’re here. But we also wrote it for you, so you can understand what we stand for.
So, as potential collaborators, what do you think? Are you surprised? Does it concern you we’re explicit about our stance on social and environmental impact? Or is this something you’d like to see more of in the transport and urban planning sector?