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Paul Mansell

Paul Mansell is a Research Fellow sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Nathu Puri Institute for Engineering and Enterprise at LSBU as well as Associate Staff, University College London. Paul would be delivering a presentation on his PhD research project, entitled: “Redefining Investment Value Decisions on Infrastructure Projects using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.

In his research, Paul used a mixed methods approach comprising a survey to which 325 engineers responded, and interviews with 40 CEOs. This has enabled him to develop an extended Theory of Change model for measuring the impact of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Impact Value Chain (IVC) model. He has tested the model with a number of case studies, including the UK Environment Agency’s £5.2billion flood alleviation and control programme. The research is testing how the application of a number of models can support measurement of the impact of the SDGs on infrastructure projects.

The relevance of the study to climate change is that the initial focus of Paul’s research is finding ways to use the measurement framework of the SDGs to inform investment decision making, specifically in relation to the UK’s national commitment to attaining Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Paul was joined by Kat Ibbotson, a low carbon advocate and research practitioner from the Environment Agency.

Paul, thank you for taking the time out to take part in the interview and for agreeing to deliver a session at the conference. To begin, can you let us know more about your background?

Since 2008, I have been a Senior Independent Advisor to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, for the Cabinet Office, and for Her Majesty's Treasury. Since 2012, I have  lectured on the governance module on the MSc Strategic Management of Projects course at UCL. In 2018, I undertook full-time PhD research on “Measuring Infrastructure Projects’ Sustainable Development Goals Impact" with Nathu Puri Institute, jointly funded by the ICE.

Previously, I worked for 20 years in the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on global operations. I also had 5 years in Deloitte Consulting as a Director, and jointly set up a leading project performance consultancy in 2004 called Moorhouse, winning many national awards; the firm was bought by BT in 2008.  I have led mega-programmes across the telecommunications, finance, energy, and transport sectors. So, it has been incredibly varied!

What will you be showcasing at this event series?

How to turn great thoughts into action – making a difference personally and organisationally, specifically on how to apply global goals at the local level.

Can you tell us a bit about some key findings from The Global Engineering Congress Survey with ICE to your interviews on SDG measuring within projects?

From the survey which involved 325 engineers, the results highlighted that there is a high demand for measuring projects against the SDGs (approximately 97%), but two-thirds of respondents did not believe they had the right tools, systems or leadership in place to deliver broader environmental and societal impacts beyond the primary business objective of being profitable.

From interviews with 40 CEOs and Heads of Sustainability, the results indicated that organisations are committed to ”make a difference”, across the three pillars of sustainability – Profit-Planet-People – but there are many perceived challenges. These include: the complexity of the 17 SDGs, 169 sub-targets and 232 indicators; the lack of credible theoretical models to guide them; and an absence of usable tools.

Tell us about how you came to work in your field?

I am an amateur explorer in the Arctic and Antarctic, providing safety support in extreme weather conditions.  Most recently, I was deputy leader of an expedition which took a film team to the North Pole to make a film on climate change.  On our exit from the North Pole, we stayed with Russian scientists who shared the troubling news that NASA’s satellite data showed that there was 1 million square km less ice in March 2017 than in March 2016.  This shocked me. I immediately searched for a PhD topic that would help me to understand this better and find a way to contribute to efforts to address it.

What is the proudest moment of your career to date?

Having 3 amazing children!

What message would you give to our staff members and students who are trying to adopt more sustainable habits and behaviours?

Taking the step from “knowing to doing"’ is the hardest but the most rewarding.

Finally, what are your hopes for the conference and more importantly, for the future?

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi during a prayer at Mumbai, India in September 1944: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” And “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

Paul’s session was on 23rd June 2020, a day devoted to “Carbon Action”.

For more information on his session, visit the event page.