2017 was a great year for sustainability at Willmott Dixon. We smashed our 2020 carbon emissions target, three years early – and have made significant progress against our waste and community targets too.
We’ve had some ‘firsts’, including the first site to power a significant proportion of its activity through solar PV, and our first site to go cable-free.
We’ve worked on sustainability exemplar buildings like the UK’s first Passivhaus school in Sutton. And we’ve helped preserve important buildings like the Old Admiralty Building on Horse Guards Parade and Alexandra Palace for future generations.
In 2017 our people have carried out some truly inspirational work in local communities - initiatives like ‘Ready for the Gate’, which is giving prisoners in HMP Elmley skills which will help them find work once on release, and which is significantly reducing re-offending rates
When people ask me how we’ve achieved such spectacular results, I tell them that there is no magic wand. Every company is different, and will have different drivers. However, I can talk about our recipe for success.
Probably the most important ingredient is having committed leaders. Company culture comes from the top. If a business leader makes something a priority, then so do their direct reports – and so it goes on. So if the person at the top publicly commits to sustainability, and encourages and incentivises sustainable activities, then that makes the work of a company’s sustainability team much easier, because sustainability becomes about working together to find the most effective solutions, rather than trying to convince people that it’s important.
Choosing to work with like-minded customers is also vital. If your customers are the kind which seek extra value from their contractors, it makes it much easier to have conversations about social value, energy efficient buildings or improved biodiversity. And working with supply chain partners who share our values gives us access to their considerable experience and expertise, which helps us build better, more sustainable buildings.
Good data is vital too. We’ve worked incredibly hard over the last few years to improve the quality of our data, and this has helped us understand where our impacts are, and make improvements where they’re most needed. But targets, in themselves, won’t drive performance. That comes from building them into our policies, procedures and plans. When we released our 2017 data, a lot of our people were surprised by how well we’d done, because they hadn’t really noticed doing anything different. Sustainability has just become part of the way we do things. For example, we’ve made it a policy for all construction projects to get early electricity grid connections, because grid electricity is far less carbon-intensive than site diesel (even more so now that we procure natural renewable energy as standard). Putting a cap on carbon emissions for all cars on our company car list has also had a big impact.
So now that we’ve made such progress, where next?
2018/19 will see us develop a new Sustainable Development Strategy for 2020 and beyond which will set even more ambitious targets for our business. We’ll be asking the question ‘what next’ of our customers, supply chain partners, industry and sustainability experts and, of course, our own people. More about that in next year’s Review!
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading about our 2017 achievements. If you have any queries or questions about any of the information in these web pages, please don’t hesitate to email me here.
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