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Northern Star: Planit — a regional pioneer of regenerative practices

Northern Star Planit a regional pioneer of regenerative practices

Planit is an urban and rural place design practice with an ecological mindset, and a passion for nature recovery, innovation, people and climate resilience. 

The company designs regenerative spaces for people to thrive within, to embed prosperity into tomorrow’s built environment. It has three studios in the North — in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool — but its projects span the entire country, with a fourth studio in London and a fifth in Gloucestershire.

Here, Planit’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, Pete Swift, tells us more for our Northern Stars series.


Putting purpose into the built environment

‘Designing for all life to thrive in balance’ is Planit’s purpose, and we achieve this by working hand-in-hand with a range of stakeholders, including central government, local authorities, communities, developers and designers. 

We believe that architecture and design firms, like ourselves, should be impact businesses, not aesthetic providers. ‘Design’, in its broadest sense, has the power to help fix the world and create a more positive future. Yet in too many cases, the measures of success are all wrong. 

However, our belief is that any industry that is known to have negative environmental impacts, also has the capacity to be one of the biggest innovators and problem solvers. 

For us, the B Corp framework and the five pillars of the Impact Assessment were a great way to guide and measure our impact, because ‘we plant trees, so we save the world’ is never going to cut it. And so, we have looked to embed B Corp principles in everything we do and in every decision we make.


Measuring our impact and finding our tribe

Taking on the challenge of becoming a B Corp is quite a singular goal. You must be a bit like a monk; undertaking methodical, lonely practice and committing to a vision. 

Once that's completed, however, you can go and find your tribe. 

Our first B Corp Impact Report spoke of the “loneliness of the journey” and the importance of small steps and cumulative progress. Our second report had a different focus — the progress you can make when the whole team and wider ecosystem gets involved. 

The shared belief of all 1,500 B Corp certified companies in the UK, is to create a more collaborative and systems-based thinking approach to the future. Together, we share knowledge and best practice, question the status-quo and catalyse bigger-picture thinking on regenerative design.


Beyond sustainability, towards regenerative

But rather than having a defined beginning and end, this is a story of constant evolution. While the journey to B Corp, which began in 2018, was an important one for our business, achieving certification in 2020 was not a bookend. 

In fact, it was the beginning of Planit moving away from being a ‘sustainable design practice’, towards Regenerative Practices. 

For too long, conversations on protecting the future have focused on ‘green’ initiatives and the sustainable transition. We believe a paradigm-shift in our worldview is needed; one which is based in restorative and regenerative practices, where people live as part of nature, actively participating within it.

To inform the path ahead, we recently commissioned a ‘Perceptions Study’, carried out by an expert who asked impactful and near-existential questions to leaders of the development industry in the UK and beyond. 

Their resounding conclusion can be described as: “What got us here, won’t get us there.”

Or even more simply, it’s time for change.

This drove us to compile our first ‘Strategic Plan’ and with that a clear and ambitious near-future mission: by 2028, we will ensure that each project we deliver will have a measurable net positive impact for all living things.


The impact of our work

As dedicated stewards of biodiversity and nature, we are committed to embracing climate positive design, creating climate resilient landscapes and communities, and raising awareness of the importance of green infrastructure in cities.

Our journey started 25 years ago and since we have completed more than 3,000 projects, which aim to restore balance between people, places and nature, fostering collaboration to drive positive change.

This approach is perhaps best exemplified in our placegrowing projects in the North, many of which have delivered significant impact:


Our advice to purpose-led businesses

  1. Be brave and take yourselves into uncomfortable space. We are in uncomfortable times, but if you are a business driven by a purpose of fixing the world, you will still be here in a decade. 
  2. Look at succession early – too many creative businesses get cut off in their prime when the founders exit. Systems change takes decades, so plan for always being around to make the impact.
  3. Get comfortable with how you talk about yourself, and you will find your ‘world-fixing’ tribe and they will find you. The B Corp movement has already opened so many doors for us and being part of the True North network will help us to connect with other like-minded organisations dedicated to driving positive progress.

If you are interested in finding out how Planit can support your project, then you can reach any one of our five studios here.

Download the True North report and join the network.

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