Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When your hobby is your full-time job

Fortunately for Dr Paul Toyne, his hobby is his full-time job. He joined Balfour Beatty's UK Construction executive leadership team as Sustainability Director in October 2013 as the Sustainability Director at Balfour Beatty Construction Services. More recently in November 2014, he was appointed to Group Head of Sustainability for Balfour Beatty plc.

Paul has a diverse background having worked as an environmental scientist, conservationist and ecologist. Outside of his role at Balfour Beatty, Paul is a London Sustainable Development Commissioner for the Mayor of London, chairing its Quality of Life work. He is also a Policy Commissioner for Birmingham University's Urban Futures Commission.

Balfour Beatty is an international infrastructure group that delivers services essential to the development, creation and care of infrastructure assets from finance and development, through project management to construction and maintenance in infrastructure aspects such as transportation, power and energy and water. Balfour Beatty employs 40,000 people worldwide.

Balfour Beatty’s UK and Ireland construction business describes itself as a leading integrator of complex, sophisticated and innovative projects that improve the UK’s and Ireland’s national infrastructure and an experienced provider of local and regional projects that help build lasting communities. Balfour Beatty offers capabilities in construction, civil engineering and mechanical and electrical engineering services. Balfour Beatty’s UK and Ireland construction business employs 9,000 people.

Balfour Beatty has a Sustainability Blueprint that defines the company's approach to sustainable development in relation to its wider company strategies and explains in detail the different areas of focus, measures and metrics. The model has three pillars, 6 business goals and 23 measures.

The company's online Sustainability Dashboard reports progress against the Blueprint.

Back to Paul. In the run-up to the fourth annual Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference, that will take place in London on 24th February 2015, which I chair, I chatted with Paul Toyne.

ME: What's so great about Balfour Beatty?
PAUL: I love working at Balfour Beatty. There are many opportunities and we have seen sustainable development become embedded in the evolution of the businesses. We can look at our internal operations and drive performance improvements, especially in the area of improving the working environment for our staff and also the natural environment though reducing resource consumption etc. But what is most fascinating about Balfour Beatty is the extent to which the goods and services we provide support future sustainability outcomes in the countries and markets where we operate. This is a fascinating place to be as the decisions we make now will affect future sustainability outcomes for us and for future generations – as assets we build last 40 to 70 years or more.

ME: Say more about the role of infrastructure in post 2015 world
PAUL: We must organize and adjust to a world with nine billion people, considering their quality of life, recognizing resource constraints and changing climate conditions. Infrastructure companies have a really important role to play. When I look at what's material in terms of the impacts of a company such as Balfour Beatty, it has to be the delivery of goods and services and design components to deliver outcomes for today and for the future. It is a big challenge for our customers – both the clients that commission our services and their understanding of the complexities of sustainable development and also in terms of the expectations of end-users, the people who live and work in the cities and towns where our infrastructure services are provided. Whether it's the provision of affordable commercial property or housing market or networks of power that we supply to citizens, transportation in electric islands or safer travel, reduced congestion and delay etc, we are working together to drive out the negative consequences of our current lifestyles and help build improved quality of life for the future.

ME: How is Balfour Beatty gearing up for this? 
PAUL: A refreshing aspect to what Balfour Beatty had put in place before I joined was the sustainability framework strategy: The Sustainability Blueprint, placing sustainable development at the heart of the business. When I saw the blueprint, it seemed to me to be a pretty comprehensive approach. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. It might be a great strategy, but if doesn't have traction within the business or deliver tangible outcomes, then it makes no sense. I have always been of the view that driving outcomes has to be done through collaboration – sharing success with many people, including working within the extended supply chain. Solving key issues around sustainable development needs collaboration.

ME: How have you been supporting this? 
PAUL: I observed that, despite the great framework and strategy, embedding and integrating parts of the strategy hadn't worked with all parts of the company. Through the tough challenges of different, sometimes recessionary, economic cycles, business priorities can sometimes shift. However, even in these times, some of the main tenets of sustainable development, such as resource efficiency, are key to what a business should do to stay ahead. What I found in Balfour Beatty are some fantastic examples of integrating sustainability by default, but other parts of the business being unable to make the transformation. In our last staff survey, 90 percent of the employees surveyed came back and said we believe we work for a company that is responsible. Equal numbers said we are aware of the vision and what we are trying to achieve in sustainable development. This is a testament to the leadership and the deep-seated commitment and awareness in the company. My focus has been supporting different parts of the company translate this commitment and awareness into deliverable outcomes, where this was not happening consistently.

ME: And what about smarter sustainability reporting? 
PAUL: We have been starting to integrate our sustainable development reporting in to our annual accounts since 2013, although we have not yet quite reached the optimal target state. Integrated reporting is more than just inserting a section in the annual report. It should really articulate the way we have demonstrated our thought processes and considered the social and environmental impacts of our core business activities. It should show how this will affect our ability to be successful in the future. 75 percent of the renewable energy that Scotland now provides has been connected through the engineering capabilities of Balfour Beatty. This is a significant impact for sustainable development. Our integrated approach should capture the value of this for our business and also for society. We have done some initial socio-economic analysis of our operations as a start. This is internal, so far, to help our own understanding. Ultimately, we want to be able to answer questions like: What do you get when you buy Balfour Beatty? What is the real value add? Where is the evidence? My role is to drive this evidence-based approach while improving the positives and reducing the negatives. I think it's going to stay fascinating at Balfour Beatty.


Thanks to Paul Toyne for these insights. He will be speaking at the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference (24 Feb 2015) in the subject of How to decide what is material for your business? I think you need to be there. Click here for details and registration. Email me for a discount code!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me via Twitter (@elainecohen)  or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm).  Check out our G4 Report Expert Analysis Service - for published G4 reports or pre-publication - write to Elaine at to help make your G4 reporting  even better. 

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