Not all heroes wear capes – our heroes build new futures

24 March 2021


Balfour Beatty, in collaboration with SCAPE, recently published its latest thought paper “Resurfacing from COVID-19: An inclusive social and economic recovery”.

Here, Mark Bullock, Chief Executive Officer of Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services business, discusses how we can work with local authorities to deliver social value as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have never been more reliant on strong and sophisticated infrastructure; whether that is the roads transporting our doctors and nurses to work, or the schools that our children learn and play in.

The construction and infrastructure industry has been at the heart of the UK’s response, with our people designated as key workers to ensure that we can continue to build at pace and service the needs of our country. But we must not lose this momentum once the virus dissipates.

We must continue to work closely with local authorities and public sector bodies to begin our economic and social recovery, shaping how we create sustainable infrastructure solutions which deliver more than just value for money.

At Balfour Beatty, we’ve long been an advocate of delivering added social value – just recently we committed to generating £3 billion of social value by 2030 and positively impacting over one million people by 2040, through our refreshed sustainability strategy, “Building New Futures”.

But how do we deliver on these bold and ambitious targets?

Now is the time to rethink, revitalise and redefine how we ‘do’ social value, to make sure everyone is getting the best out of it.

It is through the SCAPE framework that we’re able to build strong, long-term relationships with our customers. Relationships that allow us to look beyond the individual scheme and provide a more innovative, forward-thinking approach to social value which will allow us to build resilient communities.

For example, during lockdown, SCAPE brought together its contractors including Balfour Beatty, schools and social enterprises specialising in education to deliver an online work experience programme. “Learning in Lockdown” saw us provide skills and training support for school students up and down the UK – replacing the face to face interaction that we would have delivered before COVID-19 and delivering over £30,000 of social value for communities through our activities.

It is this type of innovative thought process that will help us adapt and evolve our approach to social value with agility. Social value can be and should be used as a driver for economic growth that benefits all parts of society, whilst also presenting an opportunity to tackle some of the wider issues we’re facing.

As climate change becomes a pressing concern for the world, people and local communities, we have a responsibility to make sure that we address the challenge and build back better and greener. That is why Balfour Beatty has also committed to going Beyond Net Zero Carbon and Generating Zero Waste by 2040, as part of its sustainability strategy.

We have an integral role to play as an industry. Every day we construct energy efficient buildings and low carbon infrastructure. But we can’t do this on own our – we must work with our clients and our partners to ensure that our towns, cities and assets are resilient to the effects of climate change and that carbon emissions throughout the whole lifecycle of a building or asset, are kept as low as possible.

The construction and infrastructure industry’s collective response to the global pandemic has shown that we are a friend, not foe, of the environmental debate and has raised hopes that progress on delivering net zero can and should, be accelerated.

SCAPE has taken an active approach to begin addressing the sector’s carbon footprint, bringing together its partners and their supply chains across the UK to harness their collective power and influence, to make construction a force for positive change.

Just recently, they published their Environmental Policy, which is designed to offer clients and project delivery teams outcomes-focussed project objectives that enable decarbonisation and focus on environmental sustainability and enhancement.

Without national frameworks, such as SCAPE, local authorities and public sector bodies can struggle to see the benefits they could reap for years to come by engaging a contractor during the early stages of a project. By cutting through many of the procurement challenges often associated with securing a reputable contractor, we can focus on the things that truly matter. Those that will have the biggest impact such as health or environmental outcomes, and those that have the potential to deliver longer-term savings.

Building strong, long-term relationships with local authorities, gives us the best chance of securing social, economic and environmental benefits. Benefits that will help us build stronger, more resilient communities and leave a lasting, positive legacy.

I for one am very inspired by the opportunity to work with our local authority and public sector body customers on the journey towards achieving net zero carbon, tackling unemployment and going above and beyond to deliver inclusive growth.

Mark Bullock, Chief Executive Officer of Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services