Andrew Stephenson, procurement director at National Highways, reflects on how road schemes can add value to society through economic prosperity and improving community wellbeing.
At National Highways, we’re well positioned to transform our customer’s lives through social value and the legacy benefits it creates for future generations. Since joining the organisation two years ago, I’ve seen social value work delivered that’s not just great, its sector and industry leading.
Our 21-mile upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntington is a fantastic example. This £1.5bn project has not only provided more capacity and better connectivity for quicker, safer and more reliable journeys, we’ve also invested in preserving areas of historical interest along the route and protecting the environment by boosting biodiversity.
We deliver value to society in more ways than you may imagine.
Working with the local communities around our projects and operational areas helps us to design schemes that meet the economic needs of the area and the communities living nearby.
We invested more than £4 billion into our road network last year, and we estimate that will produce a return to society of roughly twice that figure.
Of course, a lot of that is economic value.
Businesses rely on our roads to move goods around the country, and people rely on them for work journeys, holidays and visits to friends and family.
Spending money with suppliers local to our projects, or supporting smaller businesses by engaging with them and helping them better understand how they can work with us, also helps support economic growth.
We want to do more and spend more with diverse suppliers to generate the widest possible social impact.
But it’s more than just economic value.
Together with our supply chain partners, we employ over 40,000 people and provide thousands of opportunities for people through apprenticeships, graduate schemes and training to build skills. We’re also focused on helping people get back into work – whether they’re ex-offenders, people who classify as homeless, ex -army veterans or simply need support to re-enter the job market after a career break.
By making sure we provide more opportunities for under-represented groups, we – and the wider highways sector – will benefit from a more diverse and talented workforce.
We empower our people to build better relationships in the communities in which they live and work by volunteering their time and skills to support projects they feel passionately about.
Our roads also play an important role in relieving the pressure of traffic from towns and cities.
We remove the traffic travelling through towns and cities and reduce congestion, noise and pollution in densely populated urban areas. And we’re working hard to address health-related issues and improve amenities, education, and heritage programmes in these and wider communities.
It’s important that we take sustainable decisions.
We conserve natural resources and enhance ecosystems wherever we can to protect the environment. We’re supporting road users to transition to zero-emission vehicles, increasing biodiversity, creating wildlife corridors and preventing flooding. Our Lower Thames Crossing project is a great example of delivering more by setting ambitious targets for biodiversity gains and carbon reduction, as well as the creation of public spaces and cycle routes.
Delivering social value isn’t new to us.
We’ve always built value into every aspect of our network, specifically focusing on the needs of our customers. We know how important it is that we make a positive difference to the communities and environment in which we work. To some extent we’re mandated to deliver this, but we also do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Andrew Stephenson is National Highways’ Procurement Director and leads on Social Value as part of his portfolio. To find out more about how National Highways is working with suppliers to make a difference for customers and local communities, come to Andrew’s talk at Highways UK, which is running in the National Highways Theatre on 2 November, 14.10-14.30