May 06, 2021 | Fiona Nevin

The role of Sustainability in the Birmingham Commercial Market

As we focus our efforts on economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, it would be easy to assume that sustainability might have slipped down the agenda for many companies. However, all the indications are that it’s going up the priority list instead. The stimulus of COP 26 in November and the associated Race to Zero campaign are resulting in corporate commitments to net zero coming in thick and fast. Now the race is on to understand what this might mean for businesses not already on their sustainability journey.

Birmingham has come a long way from its legacy of heavy industry and officials at the City Council have set some of the most ambitious environmental targets in Europe, with a goal to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2027. At the same time, development is booming as contractors deliver the highest volume of landmark projects and regeneration that the city has seen.

As one of the biggest consumers of natural resources, the construction industry has a major role to play in sustainable development, striking a balance between the demands of the current population while preserving the needs of future generations.

It is no surprise then that ambitious conversations and considerate planning around ‘green’ development have progressed to action on a range of projects. There are a wealth of highly rated BREEAM assessed projects throughout the city such as The University of Birmingham’s new School of Engineering and The HS2 Birmingham Interchange station in Solihull, which is the first railway station globally to gain an outstanding certification.

The welcome arrival of Spring brought more good news for Birmingham’s rapidly changing skyline. Developer @Woodbourne Group unveiled plans for Curzon Wharf, a £360m, 53-storey tower in the city, which it says will be the world’s first net-zero carbon skyscraper.

In today’s world, debating whether to incorporate sustainability into your business strategy is no longer an option. Without it, you will be by definition ‘unsustainable’ and what business has that as an ambition? Smart companies are investing time and money in starting or progressing their sustainability journeys, knowing that it will pay off in the long-term. It may seem counter-intuitive that spending more money on sustainable business practices can boost a company’s profitability, but many studies show that the most sustainable companies are also the most profitable.

The well-publicised buzz around net zero and the inevitable legislation that is surely coming strikes fear into many. However, the reporting expectations and pressure around tangible measurement provide a genuine opportunity for companies to improve on performance across the board. There is no doubt that tech is emerging as the solution to many issues in the construction industry. The labour-intensive tasks that traditionally surround measurement and reporting on the key pillars of sustainability have been crying out for simplification.

I have worked in Business Development in Construction for all my working life, spending the lion’s share of my time in the Midlands and the North West. In that time, I have seen many changes in the procurement landscape, including the areas outside pricing that take contractors across the line and into real contention for winning contracts. As we continue to build relationships and the headlines around responsible practices gain valuable traction, perhaps it’s time to embrace sustainability as a way of adding true value to our offering – not only for the contractor, but for the customer and for wider society too.

The big question of course is how do you know when your sustainability efforts are bearing fruit? and that’s where tech can help. In my latest role, with SustainIQ, I’m seeing how the ability to simply produce evidence of sustainable practices is helping our customers get across that elusive line to win contracts and it’s a real win-win for all involved.

As UK Construction Week comes to an end, I hope many companies have been inspired about where the industry is going and the potential it has to play a leading role in positive climate action through sustainable development. If SustainIQ can help you make those efforts more visible and give you a leading edge in tenders, do get in touch. We’re always happy to change your world, for good.

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