Sustainability Journey: Willmott Dixon

Willmott Dixon is one of the UK’s largest privately-owned construction, housing and property Groups. Founded in 1852, the company has grown to become one of the country's most recognisable brands for the built environment. The company prides itself in creating value for clients, stakeholders and communities by taking a leadership role in the built environment, working in a sustainable and responsible way and by making a positive impact in the lives of people in the local communities in which it operates. Willmott Dixon is a UK-GBC Gold Leaf member.

Louise Sunderland, Senior Policy Advisor at UK-GBC has reviewed Willmott Dixon’s 2015 Sustainability Review (covering the company’s 2014 activities) and shares her top picks and the key areas for consideration for the future. 

Key achievements

  • Carbon performance: One of the most eyecatching headlines from Willmott Dixon’s 2014 Review is the company’s achievement of a 30% reduction in carbon intensity compared to 2010. This hugely overachieves against the 2014 target of 15% reduction and puts the company a long way along its ambitious journey to halving the amount of carbon it emits by 2020 – a pledge that Willmott Dixon recently contributed to UK-GBC’s COP21 campaign. Willmott Dixon has also maintained its ‘carbon neutral’ status for the third year running. Furthermore, the company has built on success in 2014 in tackling internal carbon emissions by expanding its influence to its supply chain, becoming the first company in the sector to achieve the Carbon Trust’s supply chain certification.
  • Investment in skills and training: in light of the benefits of embedding sustainability across a business and the need to invest in staff at a time of increasing skills shortages, Willmott Dixon is addressing these challenges head on and the company’s achievements are commendable. 99% of Willmott Dixon’s staff have undertaken an introductory sustainability training module and staff training across the workforce averages 3.13 training days per employee. In its support of the Supply Chain School, which provides free resources to enable suppliers to build their sustainability capacity, Willmott Dixon extends its commitment to learning and development to its partners.
  • Responding to key social challenges: Willmott Dixon’s Sustainable Development Strategy highlights the private rented sector as an area the company can offer innovation and drive investment. The company is innovating with new business models, such as its be:here private rental model, to achieve its ambition of addressing some of the key national challenges around housing supply, especially in the private rented sector, security of tenure and flexibility of tenure.

Key challenges

  • Driving higher housing standards: Willmott Dixon’s 2014 Review shows that the company has not only increased the number of homes built to Code Level 4, but that the number of Code Level 4 homes overtook the number of Code Level 3 homes this year. Within the current context of reduced national ambition for regulatory standards for new homes, there is a vital need for industry to take the lead on housing standards. Willmott Dixon is well placed to take this lead by committing to deliver better than regulated standards on its own developments (through be:here and Prime Places). There is clear potential for Willmott Dixon to further differentiate and capitalise on the business’ existing innovation, skills and principles to help the industry maintain ambition on sustainability standards.
  • Whole life assessment: A key ambition under Willmott Dixon’s Responsible Business priority is to champion whole life assessment as an overarching approach to projects, so that the true cost of a building’s use is visible to clients and end-users. Given the potential for a whole life approach to drive sustainable design of products and buildings, it would be good to see Willmott Dixon sharing their activities and their assessment of its impact on decision making more widely. I would also be very interested to understand how Willmott Dixon intends to further this work with its clients, supply chain and within its own business models.
  • Integrated reporting: Willmott Dixon has already begun to bring together social and environmental issues and financial through inclusion of a section on sustainability in the company’s annual report and accounts, whilst also publishing a separate Sustainability Review. The next natural step for the company appears to be to progress to fully Integrated Reporting giving equal prominence to the reporting of social, environmental and financial issues.

Further resources:

UK-GBC Guide, How to Implement integrated reporting in your organisation

RIBA Climate Change Toolkit: Whole Life Assessment for Low Carbon Design

Supply Chain Sustainability School


Added: 25/11/2015

Featuring Member: Willmott Dixon

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