We need to see a cultural change towards approaches to carbon, says John Dixon, Jacobs’ Vice President and Highways Market Director, and we should take inspiration from the transformationl improvements in safety achieved within the sector over the last 20 years
Over the last 20 years we can take pride in the transformational improvements made in health, safety and wellbeing in the highways sector. Key to this has been the significant investments in cultural safety programmes. This has driven a mindset change throughout the value chain, with so many more people now choosing to do the right thing and lead the way on safety, regardless of their level of experience or seniority. These were ‘no regrets’ investments that in many cases have yielded delivery and bottom-line business benefits, as well as improved safety performance.
Just like safety, carbon reduction now demands the full and absolute focus of the industry over the next thirty years, but critically over the rest of this decade. There is so much we can do together to reduce carbon emissions in highway infrastructure solutions, and we have the talent to do it.
If we look at how safety has now become embedded into organisations’ business strategies and operations, we can take inspiration to do the same with carbon. Many of you will be familiar with having a ‘safety moment’ at the start of each meeting. This is one relatively small feature of a typical safety programme that places health, safety and wellbeing management at its heart. Perhaps the next time you’re holding a meeting you could think about also having a ‘carbon moment,’ and help place carbon reduction at the centre of your organisation?
In addition to safety moments other features of the safety culture change architecture include leadership commitment training, all staff orientation training, staff-led action groups, observation records/’don’t walk bys’ and stand downs, amongst others. Drawing on this existing architecture we can make a running start to embed carbon management in our organisations, crucial to driving environmental, social and economic growth within our sector.
There are some challenges to this, with few organisations implementing transformational change in the same way. This has been the case with safety management. Imagine how much faster it might have been if everyone adopted the same approach, whether that be highway authorities/clients or suppliers, especially when the goal of zero accidents or harm has been so universally sought by the sector.
Adoption of a common standard to frame our investment and transformation therefore makes perfect sense for carbon, as net zero is the goal we are all striving for. PAS 2080 ‘Carbon Management in Infrastructure’ is increasingly being adopted and promoted in the highways sector. It provides a systematic way for managing whole life carbon in infrastructure delivery that the industry could use to accelerate improvement. This is a flexible standard that can be applied to different project types, sizes and stages. If we use it as a means to facilitate consistency and collaboration at pace we stand a better chance of making a difference on time!
The sooner we see a cultural change towards approaches to carbon, the sooner we can meet our net zero targets, and ensure better business performance, reduced costs, increased competitiveness and innovation. We need to build on what we’ve achieved so far, and make sure our highways are fit for a truly sustainable world.
John Dixon is speaking at Highways UK in the Main Theatre panel Getting serious: climate action towards net zero which takes place at 10.40 on 3 November. Other panelists include Rachel Skinner, Ben Harris, Jamie Bardot and Elliot Shaw.