One contractor already creating social value through its construction activity is Scheme Associate Member Willmott Dixon and their Foundation. The Willmott Dixon Foundation is their vehicle to add social value to communities by defining and measuring their contributions to wider society, beyond day-to-day activities.
The contractor aims to enhance the life chances of young people, and this is measured through a number of means which include mentoring, work experience and apprenticeships.
Willmott Dixon Foundation have provided a number of case studies below highlighting how they have created social value.
One year on: A sense of ambition
Ellie, a single mum, was struggling to find employment before she won an apprenticeship with Willmott Dixon. Despite achieving NVQs in electrical installation she couldn’t find work. “I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have site experience and I couldn’t get site experience because no one would give me a job. I was going round in circles”. Although it’s not easy working a full day and sending her daughter to childcare before and after school, Ellie says that if she hadn’t won the apprenticeship she would be doing unskilled work instead. Now, two years after joining Willmott Dixon she has her sights set on a level 3 NVQ in gas fitting. “After that there are options to go anywhere you want, really.”
Creative funding solutions
Austerity increases the need for contractors to innovate in order to provide solutions which deliver a range of social benefits.
Willmott Dixon Partnerships’ Rotherham branch looks after 10,500 homes for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. It is working with Rotherham council on an innovative way to create more value for the local community.
Rather than simply return the annual savings from its housing repairs and maintenance contract budget, Partnerships’ offered to take unused land and turn it into something useful. The outcome will see the construction, on a derelict garage site of two specially adapted houses for people needing additional support.
The scheme adds value on a number of fronts. The council won’t be paying for maintenance of a site which is no longer useful, and the new housing will generate income. The demand on social services will be reduced because people living in the adapted houses will require less support from carers. And the families living in the specially adapted homes will have a better quality of life.
Propagating company culture
The importance with which a business takes social value can be measured by the steps it takes to embed it into the next generation of leaders and managers.
Management trainees from across Willmott Dixon take part in an annual competition, as part of their developmental activities. Through the Willmott Dixon Foundation, a trainee from each local company organises a community activity or event which will leave a positive legacy in a local community. Each trainee must work with the local community organisation and then mobilise colleagues, supply chain members and community volunteers to get the work done.
Projects over the years have included: a makeover of the Chickenshed Theatre in London’s Barnet; renovating some retail space in Oldham for a new fair price white goods store; building a new agricultural teaching facility for a school catering for disaffected young people in Hertfordshire; supporting people affected by flooding in Somerset; and a new sensory room and gardens for an autism centre in Birmingham. Some of the trainees also gave work experience to local young people by involving them in delivering the projects. Natalie Briden, winner of the 2014 challenge from Willmott Dixon Interiors said: “This was an amazing opportunity to do something really worthwhile for the community. The whole company was behind it and we also got our subcontractors to help as well. And I can’t tell you how much I learnt in the process”
“I’ve been so impressed by what our young people have achieved,” said Alison Symmers, Head of Willmott Dixon Foundation. “As well as creating value for the community, these projects are really good for developing team spirit and for helping the trainees form connections with other colleagues.
“But the most important thing is that, as a Group, we are communicating to our management trainees – the future leaders of our business – that community investment is a valued part of our business.”
Grown in Britain
Giving employees time and resources to work for industry organisations and bodies helps move the industry and the UK forward, and gives businesses a platform from which to affect real social change.
Grown in Britain is a not-for-profit company which seeks to increase the supply and use of British timber. Its purpose is to create a more sustainable future for our woodlands and forests and to re-build the British timber industry, which has been in decline for the past 50 years. The company emerged out of the report of the Independent Panel on Forestry, which was set up after the failed attempt to sell off the Public Forest Estate.
Steve Cook, Principal Sustainable Development Manager for Willmott Dixon, chairs a task group looking at how to encourage the sector to procure more home grown timber, and promote the visibility of the home grown market.
“Nationally this is going to make a huge difference,” says Steve. “By 2050, global demand for timber is expected to triple; we are currently the third largest importer of timber behind China and Japan. Having more and better managed forests will be better for our industry and society.” As one of the founding partners of Grown in Britain, Willmott Dixon encouraged fellow members of the UK Contractors Group to sign up to the organisation’s aims to put the economic engine behind UK forestry. And it is using its connections with the Government to push the message there too.
As well as providing a greater future resource of timber and fuel, more woodland will increase biodiversity, sequester carbon emissions and present significant recreational and employment benefits for local communities.
“We have to create a stronger woodland culture in our society,” says Steve. “We need to raise public awareness and show people what forests do for them, and explain that harvesting trees is not a negative thing – as long as they are sustainably managed.”