Q and A with Mike Putnam: Why the UK needs a lower carbon industry

The Green Construction Board’s Infrastructure Carbon Review was launched one year ago. GCB co-chair and chief executive of Skanska UK Mike Putnam explains the progress to date.

Mike Putnam, chief executive Skanska UK

How has the Infrastructure Carbon Review helped embrace the low carbon future?

By creating the ICR, government has provided a common standard that everyone can understand and work towards. With more of a ‘master plan’, we can bring developers, contractors and the supply chain closer together more easily. It should see standards rise across the industry.

How will the ICR make the link between reduced carbon and reduced cost?

The review focuses on carbon reduction, which improves the environment, but the associated innovation is perhaps more important. A low-carbon perspective changes our thinking. Frequently, we end up with more efficient or cost-effective outcomes as a result. 

Why is the Infrastructure carbon review initiative so important to your business? 

At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, Skanska has been on its own low-carbon journey for many years now. Initiatives such as our Journey to Deep Green™ and the industry-wide Supply Chain Sustainability School have helped us to reduce carbon (and costs) in our own business as well as for our customers. The ICR is an opportunity for us to benchmark how far we’ve come. 

What evidence is there that a lower carbon culture improve business?

By insisting that everyone with a company car or car allowance drives a greener vehicle, our employees have benefitted from low-carbon tax breaks. And when we benchmarked this in 2008 we showed that the company saved £1.2M a year in fuel bills. Recent evidence from the World Green Building Council highlights that greener buildings are healthier buildings, with happier, healthier and more productive people inside them. We find that strong green credentials – along with our other core values –help us attract the best talent. 

What is the biggest opportunity of a move towards low carbon construction?  

First there is an opportunity to collaborate – to think about the collaboration needed for the Olympics and the success that was enjoyed by all. Secondly the big opportunity is innovation. If we stay ahead we can market this expertise globally.

How do we compare to other nations and other industry sectors?  

I believe the UK does well against other nations on developing low-carbon thinking, processes and technology, but we have a responsibility to influence across the globe. Our supply chains are global, so we have a far-reaching impact. The construction industry has the opportunity to make a huge difference, but we are not necessarily as nimble and entrepreneurial as some other sectors, such as retail, as our purchasing is less frequent or consistent. 

What else should government do? 

Reward and recognition. Contracts should be given to those contractors who can demonstrate the largest carbon savings, as well as cost and social benefits. It would also be beneficial all round if longer timeframes were applied at the planning stage, so that the paybacks for sustainable options are more evident.

Should we have low-carbon policies mandated in the procurement process?

Yes. But my advice to those at the start of the journey is to embrace it early and go at your own pace. But if you wait until government imposes legislation, you will lose out.


Mike Putnam is the co-chair of the Green Construdtion Board and chief executive of Skanska UK

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference 

Monday 27th October 2014, 09:50 to 13:00. Registration from 09:30.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Conference Centre, 

1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET.

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference is designed specifically to explain to business and commercial benefits across the industry of embracing the principles of the GCB Infrastructure Carbon Review which was launched at the end of 2013.

The morning conference aims to share business experiences and successes where companies have embedded these values; and convince others of the value of the initiative. 

New construction minister Nick Boles will speak alongside Infrastructure minister Lord Deighton, Green Construction Board industry co-chair and Skanska UK chief executive Mike Putnam and chief construction advisor Peter Hansford.

The principal objectives of the conference will be to:

  • Encourage the value chain to take action in reducing carbon and reducing cost in infrastructure
  • Re-enforce the key messages of the Infrastructure Carbon Review: that a low carbon approach is a critical business driver
  • Maintain the momentum of this message since the launch of the review in November 2013 and update on actions ‘one year on’
  • Encourage new participants to pledge commitment to meeting the objectives of the Infrastructure Carbon Review
  • Share best practice from across the supply and help the whole value chain to learn from others, boost performance and drive innovation.

To register your interest in attending this free event email

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