B Corp Month: The power of networking in construction

It’s B Corp Month and we have been thinking about how we can use ‘business as a force for good’. B Corp has posed the question “how can we be a better steward to our clients?”. We have been taking a look at how collaboration with our fellow construction colleagues and friends can develop better working relationships and ultimately benefit our clients outside the project delivery space.

The South West Region, like many others, has a thriving construction community so we grasped the opportunity to speak with some of its most prominent voices to understand how participation in the local ‘networking groups’ supports the development of integrated project teams.

In the construction industry, collaboration, knowledge sharing and creating open relationships between all disciplines is essential in developing successful outcomes for all clients and their projects.  Traditionally, one of the most effective ways of establishing these connections has been through networking groups. Whilst the pandemic has meant that meeting in venues outside of the work environment has been put on hold, this hasn’t meant that the industries desire to progress and connect has faltered!

Access to knowledge sharing, CPD events, webinars and local community support has been essential to uniting the construction industry and maintaining the close relationships between disciplines.

Peter Everitt, Pre-Construction Manager at Kier Regional Building and Chairman of Constructing Excellence in Plymouth explained to us that “Dissemination of best practice, collaboration on industry improvement projects and local networking are vital for a vibrant and successful local industry.”

By continuing to take time to find authentic opportunities to connect and exchange value has empowered the industry to explore new and innovative ways of developing these relationships. These will ultimately only go on to benefit our clients and their projects.

Networking events can also have a massive impact on Social Value with many groups working voluntarily to raise money for local charities, deliver community projects and provide skills training for local communities. In Plymouth, these strong relationships have led to the delivery of some innovative community-led projects, including the Mayflower Forest. The Mayflower Forest is an initiative led by Building Plymouth and delivered by Plymouth’s local construction and built environment professionals. As part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations in 2020, the team improved the local landscape and environment for the community and visitors by planting over 1,000 trees creating a green gateway into the City. Emma Hewitt, Skills Lead for Plymouth City Council and Building Plymouth spoke about the influence networking can have on schemes such as these, “Without access to such varied and valuable networks, I would not have been able to increase the number of Project Sponsors or engage partners for these schemes.”  

The economic value of networking within local communities is extensive and permeates all aspects of regional economies – from creating new business opportunities to promoting and supporting local SME’s growth and development. Networking organisations that provide opportunities to drive skills and employment in the industry have a critical role.  

Emma Hewitt goes on to say “I can confidently say that Building Plymouth’s award-winning, Council led partnership with the local construction and built environment community is the success it is today due to the trusted relationships built and developed through networking opportunities – both in a professional and personal capacity. It is fair to reflect that Building Plymouth’s tremendous success on driving skills and employment has now expanded into acting as a united voice for the industry which has been massively strengthened through the close connections enabled through networking.”

Building Plymouth was also key to enabling continued knowledge sharing within the local industry at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when Emma gathered a team of volunteers to create a weekly industry-focussed newsletter. The aim of the newsletter was to keep the construction community in Plymouth and the wider South West region connected and informed of industry and local COVID updates, sharing wider industry news and provide links to online CPD events and webinars.

Another positive output from networking organisations is the ability to quickly gather multi-disciplinary teams to unite and drive action on global issues such as the climate emergency. Initiatives such as B Corp certification and Future Plymouth 2030 have united like-minded individuals to guide and encourage the local construction industry towards Net Zero Carbon 2030.

David Bayliss, Regional Director at Stride Treglown and Chair of First Thursday Club acknowledges the importance of this by stating that, “Future drivers in Net Zero Carbon and modern methods of construction will need all our experience, knowledge, and shared vision to drive our industry forward. This along with having a voice at the table for educating our clients, our educators, and future employees. When it comes to achieving these vital goals it will require all of our efforts and what better way to do this than in an open and relaxed atmosphere that First Thursday Club and other similar organisations provide.” 

The B Corp Built Environment Working Group was formed during the Covid-19 pandemic and has made the most of digital technologies to enable collaboration in the industry between B Corps to work towards a more sustainable future. B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

Kate Barber-Lomax, Development Manager at igloo,  Co-Chair of the B Corp Built Environment Working Group shared with us her views on how the move towards digital has opened the door to creating a network less defined by geography and increasingly focused on the goal of evolving and innovating as a means to a greater end. She said. “Surprisingly, a benefit of COVID-19 has actually made networking, bringing people together and collaborating much easier. No longer do you need to find a space and book a meeting months in advance, it can now all be done from the comfort of your own home!  We initiated the B Corps Built Environment Working Group as it felt like an opportune time to bring together the rapidly rising number of B Corps in our space where we could share ideas and best practice from across the sector.”  

Whilst the methods of networking and connecting in the industry have evolved over the last year it is interesting to see how many of these new innovations will continue post-pandemic. How do you see the landscape for networking evolving? Will digital technologies allow more people to connect across regions? Or will we just value the time we have together in person at events so much more? Only time will tell, but we are interested in hearing your thoughts, if you have any ideas or thoughts on the value of our networks within the construction industry, please contact us at marketing@wwa.uk.com.

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