How are we supporting our local communities and leaving a positive lasting legacy?
Author: Catherine Warbrick, Investor Relations & Corporate Responsibility Director
Ten years ago, we thought our role in the community was simply to be a “good neighbour” – registering all our sites for the Considerate Constructors Scheme and developing good community relations. Now that is just the baseline. It is not enough simply to be a good neighbour; we want to bring value to the communities in which we work, and leave a positive lasting legacy when we go.
In 2013, the government introduced the Public Services (Social Value) Act requiring public sector clients to think about wider social, economic and environmental benefits when they procure services. As a result, many of our customers now ask us to demonstrate the value and legacy we will bring to a community if we win a contract. They want to know how we intend to employ and up-skill local people; how we will support the local economy; get involved in community projects; and generate social value.
Our customers are major blue chip companies who trust us with their brand. They want to know they’re working with a company that is taking these issues seriously, and that our vision of corporate responsibility is aligned with theirs.
We have many programmes to ensure we create a positive knock-on effect for the local society, including local employment and skills training, and engagement with local charities. Our work with the Prince's Trust is a good example: we run two week “Get into construction” programmes to up-skill young, disadvantaged people and provide them employment opportunities with us and our supply chain.
This is part of our commitment to inspiring the next generation so they will want to join the industry. We have more than 100 STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ambassadors in the company, who go into schools to talk to young people about career opportunities available in an engineering company. And we have created a partnership with PLOTR to provide an online careers advice service that describes infrastructure careers in language that makes sense to 15-year-olds.
Part of our motivation for these activities is to ensure we’ve got a pipeline of talent coming into the business; but equally, it’s about ensuring young people are aware of the choices they’ve got. It is also important for staff engagement: our STEM ambassadors get a lot of enjoyment out of talking to young people about a career they’re very passionate about.
We saw the same passion last year, when the whole company came together to raise over £1 million for four charities to celebrate our 150th anniversary. There was a real sense of togetherness, and morale and engagement are really high as a result.
We know that good people have choices when it comes to where they work, and what a company is doing in terms of the environment and the local community can be a deciding factor.