CSR in Construction

"CSR is what you make it" was the key messages from the first IMPACT: CSR in Construction roadshow. No matter how big the company and no matter how big the project, an approach to CSR has to be context specific. Held in Birmingham on 9 February, the event kicked off with a unique insight into the importance of CSR in the successful delivery of the London 2012 Olympics from keynote speaker Tessa Jowell. As former Minister for the Olympics, Tessa stressed the need for "Mission Driven Leadership" as a key driver for CSR. She provided a fascinating overview of some of the CSR initiatives undertaken during the delivery of the Olympic Park. From access to contracts for SMEs across the UK, through zero major reportable incidents during construction to re-homing stray cats on the site, the range of CSR activities on the Olympics was immense. But despite its size, Baroness Jowell emphasised that the CSR initiatives from the 2012 Olympics are scalable.

One of the key challenges in building the Olympic Park was community engagement. "When you are engaged in a project like that, there will be people nearby who will be disturbed. Pay greatest attention to those people most disrupted" said Baroness Jowell, "understanding communities and paying attention to their needs far exceeds the cost of delays” she added. Tessa also highlighted the risks associated with CSR and cautioned against there being all talk and no action. This is where Mission Driven Leadership is important in ensuring the values, challenges and aspirations for CSR are reflected by everyone working for a business or on a project.

CSR and the skills crisis

One of the hot topics of the day was the industry's skills crisis and how CSR can help to address them. Georgina Burton from Moulton College gave an inspiring talk on the importance of apprenticeships to the industry. However, it is clear that the industry needs to improve its image to attract new talent given that nearly 70% of 14-19 year olds state that they wouldn’t consider construction as a career. With technology a growing part of construction, through BIM, virtual reality and 3D printing there is much to excite this generation with. It is up to us to tell this generation how exciting our industry is to help close the skills gaps. Martin Price from the Cross-Construction Apprenticeship Task Force emphasised the economic importance of apprentices stating that for every £1 invested in apprentices, the return on that investment is £23. Despite this, of the 509,400 apprenticeships undertaken last year, only 21,000 of these were in construction.

Complex but measurable

Delegates also heard about the work of Birmingham City Council in delivering its home building programme. Steve Dallaway, Development Manager of the Housing Development team at the council, stressed the importance of good design and community engagement to ensure the delivery of new affordable homes contributed to better social and economic outcomes. He also explained Birmingham's approach to ensure SMEs were able to participate in the programme by scaling developments appropriately.

Throughout the day, the roadshow also helped attendees understand how they can address issues of CSR strategy, Human Resources, environmental sustainability, measuring CSR performance and equality and diversity as part of their overall approach to CSR. The roadshow demonstrated that CSR is an extensive and complex area. It has to be specific to each organisation and to the characteristics of individual projects and programmes. It has to be embedded within organisations and staff need to embrace it for it to be truly successful.

Simon Dingle of Carillion captured it neatly in sharing his 'top ten' tips for successful CSR. These included staff engagement, effective use of social media in community engagement and focused training and development. But most importantly he left us with the message that "successful CSR is what you make it."

IMPACT rolls on!

For those wishing to find our more about the IMPACT project, we are running three more roadshows in Leeds (28 February), Manchester (1 March) and London (27 March)

The CITB-funded IMPACT: CSR for Construction project offers a range of support to construction business to assist with their CSR, depending on what stage you are at in the journey and where you would like to take CSR within your organisation.

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