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Thinking beyond a project to bring sustainable value to society

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When delivering large scale infrastructure projects, we need to consider how to deliver a legacy to help the government’s levelling up agenda which may not be realised until long after the project is finished.

The government wants public funded projects to do good

Since 2013, the Government has insisted public procurement should consider how procurement for public services can also secure wider social, economic, and environmental benefits. More recently, the Government announced it would go further and explicitly evaluate social value when awarding most major contracts. This presents unique opportunities for SMEs and social enterprises to win Government contracts by demonstrating how they will deliver social value, whilst allowing companies delivering larger scale projects to use this public investment to align and support key policies for the Government, such as levelling up the UK by enabling economic growth in areas targeted for levelling up.

We have seen great examples of projects where collaboration between the supply chain and stakeholders brings tremendous change for the environment, such as Crossrail working with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Likewise, there are numerous examples of projects bringing social value for equality and fairness by using suppliers who promote equal pay and employ groups that are historically underrepresented in the workplace. These types of project objectives bring immediate benefits with a social value dimension and the positive outcomes are visible during the lifetime of a project and/or at completion. Public companies are also requesting that suppliers bidding for contacts declare what policies and processes they have in place to reduce their company’s carbon footprint.

The need to think of a legacy beyond your project

Larger projects infrastructure projects and those undertaken over a significant period of time, present an opportunity to help communities that require levelling up. Socioeconomic benefits associated with levelling up, may not be realised during the lifetime of a project. But the project could form the basis of a longer-term place-based regeneration that will in turn help the levelling up agenda, in line with Government objectives. There are two ways a project can do this:

  1. Investment in local suppliers - As project professionals, we can look to work with the supply chain to identify manufacturing opportunities in deprived areas in the UK, to produce equipment/hardware and then get it delivered to project site for installation. Another procurement activity a project professional can do is to secure remote services from such areas of the UK. Using public funds to buy goods and services from deprived areas could stimulate economic growth in the area, leading to more employment opportunities. Likewise, building local supplier credentials, based on their work on a large public project, will lead to other companies having the confidence to buy from them, leading to growth and employment opportunities.
  2. Upskilling local workforce - Where projects are in areas of high unemployment and deprivation, we, as project professionals are faced with the opportunity to upskill the local workforce. By working with labour agencies and directly employing local people, it will help future-proof their long-term employability. In an age where the Government are keen on investing in infrastructure projects, this valuable experience, exposure and newly obtained skills will put people in a good position for further employment, as well as attracting companies to invest in the region due to access to a trained workforce. Investing in upskilling from deprived areas gives long-term employability, which in turn improves their happiness and wellbeing, potentially leading to less dependency on the Government and social services.

Project managers should think about this is now

Both examples above, are ways projects can leverage their procurement to contribute to long-term benefits that won’t necessarily be realised until long after a project is completed. A company bidding for government contracts to deliver projects can very much be seen as favourable if they can articulate a clear path of how they can do this. Project professionals need to consider ideas on how to do this now as this is very much the direction of travel for public spending since 2013. We must think beyond the project and its end goal so that we can bring sustainable social value to our society.

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