Any business these days needs to balance their objectives, in terms of performance, cost management/ value for money, and creating value within communities in which they operate. Sellafield Ltd is no different, and I don’t believe there is a conflict between the three.
When competing for a tender with us, social impact is one of the key criteria every company has to meet, alongside the more traditional aspects such as quality, technical capability, health and safety, and commercial.
It’s another lens for us to look through as the customer – what / how will they contribute to social impact? They should all be more than aware of this, it isn’t a Sellafield thing, it is happening everywhere.
We at Sellafield Ltd are intent on driving value for the taxpayer, and social impact is part of how we do that. It is built into everything we do with our supply chain. What is more, I believe it is good business to do so. Why shouldn’t we, or any other business, be intent on having a positive impact on the communities in which we operate?
We know that West Cumbria has its challenges. But social impact is not about us simply sharing out a portion of our budget. It is about Sellafield, and the businesses we work with, bringing something tangible, a sustainable benefit to the area that will help people and the community thrive, as part of what we do.
It is thinking about investment and impact in a different way. As an example, we are one of the biggest employers in the area, closely followed by the hospitality industry – the hotels and restaurants in and around Cumbria and the Lake District. All of them needing trained and proficient catering staff, cleaners, facility managers and security... the list goes on. A business of our scale is constantly in need of people with these skills too, as is our supply chain.
So, for example, what if we worked with our supply chain and communities to set up a first-class facilities management / hospitality academy? We would be developing skills we require on our sites, and the benefit to the local area could be tremendous, developing the right skills and creating opportunities for local people to revitalise the hospitality industry in places like Whitehaven and the local area. It could improve tourism and through this generate more revenue within the area, as well as creating a hotbed of talent which could be exported across the UK.
Investigating these kinds of possibilities and opportunities makes social impact a powerful thing, and we expect the same approach when dealing with our suppliers. More than half of our £2bn a year funding goes to our supply chain. We expect them to bring their best people to help us deliver our mission, and although that cannot always mean using local people if the skills aren’t there, there is often the opportunity to develop local people, investing today to have the benefits of a readily available workforce in the future – reducing overall costs and creating a workforce we can utilise elsewhere in our mission, or export to provide their skills to decommissioning programmes elsewhere in the UK, or across the world. That’s a real impact.
I know our supply chain understands this – after all, this is not a new idea. It is what businesses like Unilever and Cadbury’s have been doing for generations, they knew from the start that if you operate in a community and are a significant employer, you have a social responsibility to that community. It makes good commercial sense and always has done. The concept of social impact just makes it stronger.
We expect our suppliers to develop their own social impact strategy, looking at where they can add value to our communities. Clearly it can’t always be as simple as moving their operations to West Cumbria, as this might not be the most cost-effective approach. This requires forethought by any supplier wanting to do business with Sellafield, it should not be a reaction to participating within a tender process. It needs to be authentic and part of their DNA, something they can live and breathe like we do.
Any organisation wanting to work with us needs to be aware of this, and I would urge them to read our Social Impact Strategy and speak to our social impact team to find out more.