What makes a sustainability leader? Inside Tideway’s award-winning infrastructure project

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of previous winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: the winner of our Building/Infrastructure Project of the Year Award, Tideway Legacy.

What makes a sustainability leader? Inside Tideway’s award-winning infrastructure project

Ready to follow in Tideway's footsteps? Entries for the 2022 awards close on 1 October 2021

The aim of the Thames Tideway Tunnel is to clean up the River Thames, helping Londoners to reconnect with the city’s largest natural asset. The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a major UK infrastructure project and, as such, it has both an opportunity and a responsibility to deliver wider benefits to the community.

Tideway’s core commitment is to improve water quality in the River Thames, which will allow biodiversity to thrive and provide a healthier environment for river users. In addition, the company hopes to leave a wider Legacy of social and economic benefits relating to the employment of underrepresented groups, quality education, training and engagement with SMEs and charities through the implementation of its legacy plan.

Population growth and urbanisation has led to the capital’s existing Victorian sewer system being overloaded, resulting in an average of 60 million cubed metres of untreated sewage overflow into the River Thames annually. Sewage has the effect of decreasing dissolved oxygen levels, harming aquatic ecology. It is also detrimental to the river economy and restricts its recreational use. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will capture 94% of these discharges and take them to the improved sewerage treatment works for treatment.

Tideway has an ambitious overall vision to reconnect Londoners with the River Thames, whether it is by demonstrating the economic and environmental business case for using the river for the transportation of more than million tonnes of material, or allowing recreational activities to flourish in a cleaner and safer river environment. Tideway has set out 54 commitments in its legacy strategy under the themes of environment, health, safety & welfare, economy, people and place.

Responsibility for protecting and enhancing the environment is embedded within the contractual conditions and commercial arrangements. Each commitment has a measurable target which is reported either on a monthly or quarterly basis to the company’s board, investors and Tideway’s Government sponsor, the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra). Tideway’s treasury and sustainability teams worked together to align its financing with its ambitious sustainability agenda through the development of its Green Bonds Framework, which has so far raised £1.7bn in green financing, including

£1.5bn in green bonds and £75m in green USPP. In November 2019, Tideway moved 10 bonds which had been issued prior to the approval of its green bond strategy in 2017 to the Green segment of the London Stock Exchange. This greening of its past bond issuance was conducted in collaboration with S&P Global Ratings and the London Stock Exchange Group. S&P’s updated green evaluation confirmed that its original assessment score of 95%, its joint-highest global score, was still valid.

The framework links the company’s 54 legacy commitments to seven UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the project contributes to, including gender equality; using the river to transport 90% of materials, thereby creating less air pollution and alleviating the pressure on the road network; employing people from areas that the company works in and setting targets to employ apprentices and ex-offenders. The river strategy has cost an additional £54m, however it was agreed that this investment would be worthwhile if it reduced the burden on the communities, assisted in rejuvenating the river community and reduced the likelihood of collisions.

To ensure that other projects can learn from the work on Tideway, the business is a founding partner of I3P – a coalition of infrastructure organisations and providers which finance and share innovation in a transparent manner. Not only does this portal contain examples of best practice, it also includes case studies of where the business feels greater benefits could have been achieved if it had adopted a different approach. The business also shares knowledge on a regular basis with projects such as the Heathrow expansion, HS2, Lower Thames Crossing and stakeholders such as the Mayor’s Office and the London Low Emission Construction Partnership, and with its peer organisations through the edie Sustainability Leaders Club and various conferences.

Tideway has conducted an initial social return on investment study which has concluded that for every £1 spent on the project there is a social benefit of £3.19 through improved natural environment, rejuvenated river economy, employment of under-represented groups and community investment.

What edie’s judges said: “Despite the scale of this project, Tideway has integrated considerations of environmental and social impacts into its core approach from day one, championing a number of innovative approaches which really push the boundaries and show a positive way forward for future infrastructure projects.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

edie Staff 

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