How can culture and procurement influence sustainable outcomes?

Constructing Excellence

The Sustainable Infrastructure Forum took place virtually on 20 April and focussed on how procurement and culture can influence sustainable outcomes.  With presentations from David Riley at Anglian Water and Mohammad Rickaby at Lower Thames Crossing and input from Ruth Carins G4C co-chair.

For many working on major infrastructure projects sustainability can seem too abstract.  It is difficult for people to see the impact of their individual actions on the whole.  Organisations are constantly changing across long-term projects, so culture and procurement have a critical role to play in ensuring sustainable outcomes are delivered.  Sustainability is more than a technical problem, there are many tools and techniques available to solve the technical challenges but how can you really drive sustainability?

Organisational purpose – At Anglian Water linking carbon neutrality to the organisational purpose has been critical in ensuring that sustainability was not overlooked.  Organisations need a north star to link sustainability to customers and long-term growth.  It will help solve the challenge of the emotional reasons why individuals should care.

Leadership – leadership is critical to drive rational behaviours that ensure sustainability is embedded throughout the project and its supply chain.  Strong leadership will drive the right processes, behaviours and cultures to drive sustainability into the DNA of the project.

Save Carbon Save Cost – At Anglian associating saving carbon and saving cost has been significant, particularly with regards to driving behavioural change across the organisation and accessing green finance initiatives.

Work with supply chain – Communicating effectively with supply chain partners and proving the concept in partnership with supply chain is very important.  This isn’t always easy – be prepared for robust and challenging conversations.

Go beyond compliance – Sustainability must be more than just a tick box exercise.  In much the same way as Health & Safety has been embedded in culture and behaviours.

Use Contract as a tool not a weapon – Contracts used correctly can be used to deliver more sustainable outcomes. Rather than use contracts to highlight negative behaviour, organisations should look at how contracts can be used to reinforce and drive good behaviour.

Consistency – Consistency in how organisations ask for information is critical to enable the supply chain to develop balanced solutions and respond effectively.  Initiatives such as the value framework that the Construction Innovation Hub and ACE are developing using the five capitals framework will very much help to drive this consistency.

The Forum will next meet (virtually again) on the afternoon of 9 July, further details to follow.