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City of London and Westminster City Council pave the way for circular innovation in construction

London’s construction industry is a significant contributor to consumption-based emissions in London, while ‘green’ innovators often struggle to supply to larger infrastructure projects due to the scale and nature of public procurement rules.

To support a greener, more diversified economy post-COVID19, the City of London and Westminster City Council are pioneering a responsible procurement approach to meet their climate action strategies. In the process, they are facilitating the integration of small and medium sized suppliers into their supply chain. As part of this, ReLondon was proud to act as delivery partner for a joint Meet the Cities matchmaking event on 30th September 2021.

Over 70 participants from construction corporates, small and medium enterprises, and City of London and Westminster City Councils came together to identify potential collaborations focused on the circular economy. To date, two new partnerships have been initiated thanks to this event.

The challenge… and opportunity

The construction industry significantly contributes to climate change, accounting for over 10% of London’s consumption-based emissions. It is also the city’s biggest producer of waste, with more than 50% of all waste in London generated from this sector. Demand for the construction industry is expected to grow: the London Plan 2021 forecasts that we will need 66,000 new homes each year to accommodate the city’s increasing population. Therefore, there is an imperative to address how the industry works, to meet our needs without compromising our ability to live on this planet.

A circular economy (where materials are kept in use for as long as possible, delivering the highest value they can, for as long as they can) offers a co-beneficial solution to meet our building needs while tackling climate change. It’s been calculated that applying a circular economy approach to the built environment could reduce global CO2 emissions by 38% by 2050.

Local authorities can help shift the industry through their procurement of – and influence on – large infrastructure projects. The City of London and Westminster City Council have embraced this role with a commitment to pioneer responsible procurement practices that integrate climate considerations into all their decisions and nurture a diversified and greener economy.

When ReLondon first met with representatives from City of London and Westminster City Council’s procurement teams, both had thrown their support behind innovation and a less carbon-intensive London. With the right strategies and intentions in place, they were keen to work with us as networked experts to kick-start collaborations in their supply chain and catalyse circular economy projects on the ground.

The circular economy is, and has to be, an integral part in the City Corporation’s commitment to achieving net zero. The Responsible Procurement Policy includes a commitment to facilitate the integration of green SMEs and Social Enterprises into our supply chain.

What we did…

ReLondon’s business transformation team acted as a delivery partner for City of London and Westminster City Council, leading on a 9-month project that culminated in a curated matchmaking event. A joint event held on 30th September 2021 helped connect local authority representatives and their largest construction suppliers to small and medium businesses (SMEs) offering circular innovations for the built environment. SMEs were specifically selected to meet the construction challenges of the boroughs.

ReLondon was able to leverage our role on the ‘Circular Construction In Regenerative Cities’ (CIRCuIT) project and Circular London Accelerator and Business Transformation programmes in finding innovations that could be integrated into social housing building projects and high-profile refurbishments, such as The Barbican and Church Street regeneration projects.

In the 6 months leading up to the event, ReLondon conducted around 20 interviews across multiple council departments to better understand the respective needs of City of London and Westminster City Council. These needs were translated into innovation challenges used to select relevant innovators.

What were the outcomes?

On the day

ReLondon, in partnership with City of London and Westminster City Council, ran an in-person matchmaking event with over 70 participants meeting face-to-face in the prestigious Livery Hall in the Guildhall. The event was presided by keynote speeches from Sheriff Alison Gowman, City of London, and Councillor Swaddle, Westminster City Council, with each reinforcing strong commitment to responsible procurement practices from their respective local authority.

Over 70 ‘speed dating’-style conversations were held on the day, matching 17 London-based circular SMEs to 8 large construction corporates and 5 local authority departments, including growth; housing and planning; adult & children services, and innovation & climate change.

Participants were surveyed after the event and 80% believed that conversations held on the day had the potential to transform into collaborations on projects. Many attendees fed back to us that they valued the opportunity to learn about emerging innovations and hold focused conversations with relevant people in a relatively informal setting – including meeting people they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to without our involvement.

Following the event

Since the event, we have followed up with attendees and identified at least 2 partnerships initiated off the back of connections made on the day – for example, Fallen & Felled have secured a partnership with Westminster Council’s tree surgeons.

The event has also inspired corporates to continue engaging with circular economy SMEs, and create their own ripples with peers in their industry to further catalyse uptake of innovations across the supply chain.

For example, one corporate organised follow-up meetings with a selection of SMEs to introduce them to colleagues in other departments, increasing opportunities to collaborate on projects.

And, as part of their participation in the Procure Partnerships Framework, a contract framework to push the boundaries of public procurement, another construction corporate brought together a consortia of their peers – including corporates not involved in the original Meet the Cities event – actively pursuing innovative, low carbon circular products and services. With ReLondon’s support, this consortium organised an intimate, collaboration event for 6 SMEs to explore further opportunities to involve them on projects.

We were all delighted with how it went and everyone was very enthusiastic about working together. I hope to continue conversations over the coming months.

Mark Bone, Pre Construction Manager, Neilcott​

What was learned?

Joint initiatives by local authorities such as this sends a strong signal to the industry and creates the right basis for change. The supply chain has the impetus to adapt and change when there is consistent demand from across its public sector clients.

In addition, we were impressed by the City of London and Westminster City Council’s ability to drive conversations and change across its employees and departments through the act of procurement. Focusing the conversation on how to drive responsible procurement created a common language with which to engage multiple departments from across the council, thus ensuring that circular economy opportunities are distributed and can be embedded throughout the organisations.

A strong starting point, being customer led and very well organised – I have no doubt that we will do businesses with at least some of the suppliers we met, predicated by City of Westminster & City of London extending their commitment to support the circular economy and SMEs.

What’s next?

Building on the success of this event, City of London and Westminster City Council are driving a pan-London initiative to increase sustainable and responsible procurement approaches in a standardised manner across boroughs, enabled by a London Procurement Portal.

We anticipate that this and other initiatives will continue to drive a circular economy in the built environment. The requirement for a Circular Economy Statement in Policy SI 7 of the most recent London Plan is already a beacon of best practice across Europe; and through our work on the Circular Construction In Regenerative Cities (CIRCuIT) project, ReLondon will further support the Greater London Authority (GLA) in the implementation of this policy.

ReLondon’s own Training Academy has helped various procurement professionals within local authorities to understand and practically embed circular economy principles to deliver social value, carbon reduction and resource efficient outcomes. Find out more here.

Our business transformation team will continue to support and promote a circular economy in London, providing free advice, connections and grants to London-based SMEs embracing the circular economy. You can find out more at our website here.

Off the back of support from ReLondon, Fallen & Felled were also able to better communicate their value through a rebrand that reflects their purpose. Read on to find out more about their success story.

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