What makes a sustainability leader? Get to know Willmott Dixon’s award-winning team

With the 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards entry deadline approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2020 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up first: The winner of our Team of the Year award, Willmott Dixon Group.

What makes a sustainability leader? Get to know Willmott Dixon’s award-winning team

Martin Baxter

Between 2010 and 2019, Willmott Dixon reduced carbon intensity by 59%, putting it on track to commit to net-zero operational emissions from all new build and refurbishment projects it will deliver from 2030. It also saw waste outputs decrease by 57% between 2012 and 2019, meaning it exceeded its two key environmental targets ahead of schedule.

The business attributes this strong progress to the tireless work of Willmott Dixon Group Sustainability (WDGS) – its team of 15 experts each working to ensure that the business maintains a triple-bottom-line approach and delivers its core value of “caring about tomorrow”.

WDGS impressed our judges with the ways in which members engage people and teams across the business, integrating sustainability systematically in all functions. On an executive level, they provide Willmott Dixon Holdings with a monthly progress report, outlining progress against all of the company’s key sustainability targets. This ensures that environmental and social concerns are always front-of-mind for the board and that any concerns can be tackled in a prompt and efficient manner, with strong buy-in.

Beyond the board, the WDGS team members have proven that they are able to effectively engage staff across the business, embedding environmental and social sustainability even in functions which may not view these issues as within their day-to-day remit. The team helps business-function leaders across the board to develop and implement risk analyses in these fields on an annual basis and, on any given week, are likely to be providing advice, support and training to colleagues across the business. With a wealth of varied experience, the team has provided advice on topics ranging from supply chain management and procurement, to marketing and communications.

The team’s strong inter-departmental relationships ultimately meant that, when developing Willmott Dixon’s sustainability strategy, they were able to engage a diverse range of internal stakeholders. At the time of the awards ceremony in February 2020, Willmott Dixon was working towards a sustainability strategy with visions for 2030 and time-bound commitments for 2020, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It features targets to shift the entire fleet to low-carbon vehicles powered by renewables, to eliminate virgin materials, and to remove all single-use plastics from sites.

The business has since updated its strategy, formalising its 2030 commitments and pledging to work with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to ensure that its climate work rises to the challenge outlined by scientists, including the IPCC. The new strategy is 1.5C-aligned and features one of the business’ most long-term environmental targets to date – ensuring that supply chain partners are net-zero carbon in operation by 2040.

Willmott Dixon’s group chief executive Rick Willmott has called the targets included in the strategy “some of the toughest for the construction sector” and praised WDGS for helping the business to rise to the scale of the twin climate and nature emergencies.

He has also spoken proudly about how meeting the updated targets will enable progress beyond the business, across the wider UK construction sector and further afield. Members of WDGS are already actively involved in collaborative groups such as the Aldersgate Group and UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), and regularly appear at industry events across the sustainability and built environment spaces. The team additionally provides advice to organisations including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Carbon Trust, while individual members share their learnings through channels such as Supply Chain Sustainability School, the BRE Trust and BSRIA.

All in all, WDGS is a diverse team, with members working seamlessly together to reframe challenges as opportunities and strength and to engage all business functions on the collective mission to contribute to a more sustainable future.

edie’s 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards

Now entering their 14th year for 2021, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are a unique opportunity to shout about the achievements you and your company have made during this challenging year. 

In a digital event on 3 February 2021, entrants will get the chance to celebrate virtually with leaders from across the sustainability, CSR and energy space. Some exciting new categories have been added for 2021 to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business   

The 2021 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 30 October 2020, so don’t miss your chance to get the recognition you deserve. The Awards will then take place virtually on the night of Wednesday 3 February 2021.


edie staff

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