A sustainable business is by definition a successful business
A truly sustainable business must, at the very least, be able to demonstrate longevity. At Willmott Dixon we have recorded 166 years of history and five generations of the founding family's involvement, so far. At our scale in this industry we are proudly unique.
My stated belief is that our company must have a 'purpose beyond profit'. This is not a new principle, just an evolution of how our company has operated for decades. The following text, from our 1978 Group Report and Accounts, could easily have been written today. Its 40 year old message resonates now with matching clarity:
Our Place in Society
A Group of companies, such as ours, which places very high importance on its human assets, must also recognise the responsibility that we have, through our people, to society as a whole.
It is easy for the company to concentrate solely on its proclaimed activity, with little or no reference to the environment and society of which it forms a part. At Willmotts we have, for a very long time, recognised our responsibility to help wherever the advice or services of our people can be of use. To this end we provide aid, not only in financial terms, but also in the service of our people to many organisations.
But of course a sustainable business must go beyond longevity and societal engagement. We only need to reflect briefly on the apparent regularity of more extraordinary weather events and the dramatic evidence of the plastic-derived pollution of our oceans and rivers to know that corporately and individually we must continue to strive to reduce carbon emissions and waste. Alongside the commitments we have made in targeting our impacts in these two key areas, we have strengthened or support for people and local communities, particularly those facing disadvantage. These are ways in which we can use the scale and reach of our company to be a real force for good.
As a values-based organisation we recognise that being sustainable is the ethical thing to do. But it's also the best thing for our business to be. Sustainability is making us more competitive, in so many ways. For example, our work to reduce carbon emissions continues to improve our bottom line - since 2010 we've saved around £12.2m in fuel costs by following our Carbon and Energy Strategy. We've also dramatically reduced the amount of expensive-to-dispose-of non-recyclable waste leaving our sites, by working more closely with supply chain partners, and by becoming increasingly more efficient with our resources. And our customers, particularly public sector procurers, now understand more clearly how we can support their response to the Social Value Act, and the recently launched Construction Sector Deal, providing solutions to their increasingly strict procurement responsibilities, commitments to local economies and communities and the mission to halve the energy use of new buildings.
Last year, as this Review demonstrates, we performed strongly against our targets in all these areas. Despite these achievements you won't find us resting on our laurels. We are acutely aware of the effect of complacency in business and on the condition of our planet. Businesses need to become even more sustainable if they are going to positively influence the future.
So over the coming years, we'll be continuing our journey to create strong supply chain partnerships. We'll be building more energy efficient buildings. We'll be intelligently pursuing our ambition of gender parity in our business by 2030. We'll be getting better at explaining to our customers what benefits more sustainable solutions (such as improved insulation, biodiversity enhancements, more efficient lighting and heating) can bring them. And we'll be innovating and embracing new technologies to help us build defect-free buildings more quickly, efficiently and safely.
Please click here to return to the Sustainable Development Review homepage