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Our commitment to environmental sustainability


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“Every construction and infrastructure project can be part of our emergency response to climate change”

I am very proud to have played a part in developing our new Environmental Policy. Approved by the Board of Directors (comprising six local authorities) in August 2020, this represents a watershed moment for us as an organisation and for the public sector professionals who use our frameworks and services to deliver their projects.

I would like to share our thinking as we developed the policy, how we put it together and what it means for the three groups it has been written for:

· Our team at SCAPE

· Our delivery partners and their supply chains who work with you

· You, our clients and the communities you serve

Back to basics

We started with one very clear question: We are responding to an emergency, so what do we need to do differently?

We knew we were drafting a policy that would shape the way we approach service delivery, whether through our framework procurement or the services our teams deliver directly to you. We recognised the responsibility to act, and to act with urgency.

The public sector delivers extraordinary things in the face of an emergency, especially when working at a community level. Whether flood, fire or pandemic, the local multi-agency response is always characterised by genuine and wholehearted collaboration between those who can and should help, and a commitment to eke out every scrap of value from the available resources through innovation and creativity, to solve the problem(s) at hand.

We have done the same, and we asked ourselves another question: How can we ensure every project we deliver will be part of the response to managing the global climate and ecological emergency?

Looking inward

We recognise that we have work to do in this area – all organisations are the same in this regard. But we take the realities of the emergency we face extremely seriously and understand the need to set minimum standards and targets for our organisation. Everyone knows that culture does not change overnight, and whilst this behavioural change is a work in progress, that change is both visible and accelerating at pace.

However, we have committed to making SCAPE’s operations carbon neutral by 2028 (that’s our scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions, for those who are into definitions).

Why 2028? Our central office is based in Nottingham, and like many other local authorities, Nottingham City Council - one of our six local authority owners - have set the ambitious challenge of carbon neutrality for the city by 2028. As a national organisation with a local footprint, we want to play our part in one of the most ambitious public sector place shaping journeys in the UK and align ourselves and our services with the clear needs of our clients and their communities.

One great example of a step along our journey is the switch to exclusively online market engagement events for each procurement. Although this was a necessity during lockdown, this new way of working has cut business travel massively and created our highest ever level of industry participation. Our team are already getting to grips with a digitally enabled lifestyle, which has been accelerated so dramatically by the Coronavirus pandemic. This means less travelling, but importantly more time with our clients and industry partners, digitally, as well as in person when it matters.

Our commitment to you through choice

Our second, and most obvious action was to establish what you, our clients, need from your future supply chain. This intelligence helped us to define a policy that embeds and promotes the standards you need. The Climate Change Act and the UK’s commitment to reduction of emissions by 2050 (amongst other legislation) define the statutory minimum required from every project. Our research revealed more than enough evidence that we need to go further and faster with change adoption, if every project is to contribute to our national climate action response.

Recognising the outstanding work done by LETI and the RIBA in 2019 and 2020 in defining the standards needed to decarbonise UK building stock, we have identified the four key capabilities that our framework services must deliver for clients - and this is our challenge to industry:

· Enable new building designs that are carbon-neutral as early as 2021 and promote the adoption of this design approach towards all new-build projects by 2025

· Enable construction of new buildings that are carbon-neutral in operation as early as 2022, and promote this standard for all new construction by 2030

· Enable retrofit, refurbishment and adaptation of existing buildings that delivers the highest possible performance and minimises operational (or in-use) carbon emissions from buildings

· Enable the lowest possible environmental impacts from all construction activity on every project - minimising embodied carbon

We know that not every client will be in a position to sponsor such radical change to their estate and infrastructure, but our policy will ensure we create an environment where we can deliver against and exceed these requirements when needed.

Our commitment to you through performance

Performance management is embedded into our teams’ daily roles and the services we provide. Our third commitment is to ensure that we rigorously manage the quality of services delivered, so that they address the challenges outlined above, and to help you achieve your sustainability ambitions.

Our procurement strategy centres around purpose, and we’re proud to be in a position to evidence that, through your construction and infrastructure investment, we can consistently deliver better social value outcomes. We passionately believe we can do the same for the environment.

Our commitment to you through leadership

The final commitment we set out in our policy is one of leadership and promotion. We have recognised that it is just not good enough for us to simply bring together a supply chain that can, when asked, deliver the outcomes needed. We can, should and will go beyond the simple supply of services through procurement.

We have a shared duty to lead, to inspire and to promote the right behaviours across the industry.

That is why we have also created a new ‘Recommended Project Environmental Standards’ document, which complements our Environmental Policy. As a united team with our delivery partners, we are equipped to work with you to positively influence investment strategies and project briefs across the public sector. The standards we have set are our invitation to you, our clients, to think differently.

There is a clear lifecycle business case to specifying higher performing buildings. Sustainable buildings are cheaper to run. This requires more upfront investment, trust in your supply chain and for everyone to collaborate in the truest sense of the word. A sustainable, circular economy is possible in construction and asset management, but only if you ask for it and commit to working together to make it a reality.

A real team effort

Finally, I would like to say thank you. It really does take a team to make things happen. The Team SCAPE ethos is one of partnership, and our policy was developed through system-wide collaboration. We recognise and thank everyone who helped us in its development and welcome everyone’s support in putting it into practice.

Thank you to our local authority shareholders’ teams, to our friends and colleagues at the National Association of Construction Frameworks, and especially to you, our public sector clients. Your involvement has helped us to better understand your ambitions and the approach for the future of your communities, and your input has enabled us to shape the part we can play in your local response to the climate emergency.

We also owe a huge thanks to our industry partners. We accelerated the development of this policy through the collaborative mindset that everyone brought to the table. These thanks don’t just extend to our existing national and regional supply chains and the attendees of our Sustainability Working Group, but also to the wider construction industry who engaged, and continue to passionately engage with our efforts.

It is your expertise and your people who will power the interventions that transform the public estate, and it is your generosity in sharing your approaches, your current capabilities and your continued journey towards increasingly sustainable practices that gave us the confidence to be bold in our ambitions and commitments.

We must also recognise the fantastic work of the Supply Chain Sustainability School in supporting us and facilitating more than 50 hours of workshops with UK businesses of all sizes, during spring 2020. Thank you to the very wide network of special interest groups and organisations who are working tirelessly on the specialist insight needed for all of us, to collectively respond to the climate emergency with the right technical standards and solutions, and with the stakeholder network to support us.

You have inspired us, challenged us and guided us. Particular thanks must also go to the team at RIBA and their amazing work on the RIBA Challenge 2030, for everyone who has worked so selflessly on the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) in terms of setting the bar for future projects and to the UK Green Building Council for their continued leadership on all of these issues.

Finally, thank you to my friends and colleagues at SCAPE, who have committed wholeheartedly to making a difference.

Together, we will.