What the Stern Review means for the design industry

John Thackara has written an excellent follow up of necessary design tasks required to support the concepts put forth in this Guardian article and encapsulates the situation succinctly,

If something must be done, rather than just talked about, then design moves centre stage.

Interestingly enough, on the same day I received  a statement [pdf] released by the Chartered Society of Designers, UK, here are the highlights:

…the review published on the 30th October by Sir Nicholas Stern has much more relevance to the design sector and although it provides gloomy reading it also offers the design profession challenges and opportunities that it should readily embrace.

Stern calculates the cost of taking action now against climate change at an average globally of 1% of GDP. He calculates the cost to GDP of not doing anything to be 5%, with opinions ranging to 20%. Even on Stern’s figures, an investment today will produce a 400% return by 2050. Even 1% is an ambitious amount but design can play a role in lowering the initial costs of our high carbon economic growth and so that a balance is achieved of levying taxes and lessening energy use.

As a profession we influence products of all sorts and buildings and the energy they use. In design development and service design we are also able to reduce the energy used in delivering them. But in order to do so the designer must posses the knowledge needed to deal with such matters. This will involve collaboration, new working methods, knowledge transfer and a new attitude to design research.

If Stern is taken seriously then designers will see new opportunities for their services, they will need to adopt a business language in order for design to become embedded in the range of businesses strategies and to take a seat in the boardroom, and they will enter new overseas markets which need to invest in products that allow them to trade in carbon emissions. For those economies that are loathe to invest the figure suggested by Stern for fear of inhibiting their rapid economic growth, design and innovation will be paramount in ensuring they are not disadvantaged.

And for those who argue that any action is irrelevant due to the behaviour of India and China, well consider the influence our profession could have on their designers of the future

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