Donna Howard is the corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager for Kier Regional Building Northern. Her contributions to CSR within Kier have led to several industry awards. Here, she discusses the importance of CSR for the communities we work in and why we should continue to strive to deliver this.
“Leaving a positive impact for all the communities we work in is a really important part of our job in the built environment. We should all strive to leave a lasting legacy that can be beneficial for a community for years to come.
I joined Kier in 2016 as a CSR coordinator and since then, I have noticed a very positive shift in the way the business and the wider industry views CSR and the importance it places on it. For Kier Regional Building Northern, we see CSR activity as a daily task, not a chore. Site teams come to me with ideas and are so enthusiastic about how they can help and how they can impact the communities they work in.
It can be difficult for site teams to start their CSR journeys, creating connections in local areas and with local businesses can be daunting when starting a new project. Having specialist CSR people in the business gives the site teams the confidence and expertise to go out and do this, whilst working with us to ensure they’re doing it in the most effective and impactful way.
CSR is not only about impacting the wider community, it can be about doing something to positively influence one person. Part of our CSR remit is about reaching out to the next generation to attract new talent into the industry; we do this in a variety of ways, including careers fairs and presentations at schools. We know this approach works and we have people working for us that are site or office-based that were initially attracted to Kier after seeing us at their school or careers event.
Getting the public engaged and interested in our projects is a pivotal part of my role. It is important to involve the public in plans and keep them aware of progress as it will encourage them to not only support the project whilst it is being built, but also to support it once it is completed.
Each year we take part in Open Doors Week, which allows us to open the doors to projects to the public so they can look at the site. We also attend various community engagement events, to ensure we’re visible for the public whilst constructing key projects in their area.
It is great to see the importance our clients and framework partners place CSR. Our appointment to frameworks such as Scape Minor Works and YORbuild is heavily reliant on our CSR activity and demonstrating that we’re willing to go that extra mile to provide value to our clients and their communities. This encouragement from our clients is great, it means our teams feel free to commit to CSR activities without the worry that the client might think they’re wasting time.
Delivering CSR can be time consuming and this can cause additional stress for site teams in project delivery. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Working alongside the sites, I organise CSR activity that benefits them and I communicate with them to ensure activity is being organised for a time that suits them. As an example, I provide support to teams to find out how Kier sites can contribute to community initiatives, such as organising sleep outs on behalf of local homeless charities or helping to redecorate charity offices. These activities are organised at times that are convenient for site teams, to ensure the project isn’t negatively impacted.
CSR is also important for us to achieve high marks for the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS). Since working closely with sites, we have seen our CCS scores increase, with us now consistently achieving over 40 (out of a possible 50) marks. We recently completed our St Albans Place project in Leeds, and by completion for every £1 of the project spend, £2.01 was generated in social value. Throughout the project almost all CSR targets were exceeded, and the benefits of CSR on the scheme were clear; several students who received work experience on site went on to secure apprenticeships in the construction industry, for example.
By continuing to drive the delivery of CSR across our projects, we will continue to provide and deliver additional value to our clients and the communities we work in. Long after we’ve handed a building over, our positive impact should continue to be felt in the community, and this is something we will continue to strive for.”