Our sustainability strategy includes a commitment to provide better solutions for the marketplace. But what does that mean?

Author: Tim Bowen, Corporate Development Director

For us, it means trying to stand in our customers’ shoes and understand as best we can what their needs are – and the needs of their customers. It means working closely with them to ascertain what outcomes they’re looking for; and to work within the “art of the possible” to prioritise work within an overall programme. It even extends to identifying when work doesn’t need to be done, and offering other possibilities.

As a company, we focus on customers that have investment programmes that transcend any one project, so we’re building relationships over multiple years or even multiple decades. That helps to develop a culture of responsiveness and trust: it means we are constantly learning about our customers’ true needs and issues, and being honest about what we can do in response. 

Our ability to influence the market comes from focusing on our customers; by not constantly looking for more customers, but working more closely with the customers we’ve got. You could see our role as that of a “critical friend” – they are part of our business just as much as we are of theirs.

Because we have these close relationships, we are able to influence a number of things: the scope of the project, the methodology, and the environmental impact of a solution over the lifetime of an asset. A lot of these decisions are made at the front end of a concept solution, where we have a lot of influence and input with our customers.

Our role within the marketplace also relates to how we work with our supply chain. Over the last few years we have been building strategic relationships with key supply chain partners, especially where their input is critical or where the scope of their input is ill defined or could be changed. Where we have these elements in a project, we create very strategic long-term relationships, because there are too many variables and we simply can’t risk letting the customer down.

Recently we have also invested heavily in trying to make innovation more systematic within Costain, so that we and our supply chain partners can create innovative solutions that will bring benefits to our customers. To do that, we need to create the right environment for people to share their innovation ideas and best practice.

We’ve been held out as an exemplar for recruiting people who have been out of employment for a long time, or who have had a difficult start in life. It brings us the benefit of a more diverse workforce – which is important in ensuring we can meets the needs of the industry going forward. And being a good corporate citizen helps us to get repeat business with our customers. But it is also important as a company that we are helping to create a society in which we all want to live.