Copper Consultancy hosted an online panel focusing on the role the transport sector could play in a modal shift in the Transport East region. The webinar, chaired by Gemma Lloyd, Account Director for Transport, discussed active travel implementation, decarbonisation, road inclusivity and safety – featuring insight from Sarah Jane Crawford (Network Rail), Esme Yuill (Transport East), Marny Moruzzi (Mott Macdonald) and Laura Nelson (Copper).

The session discussed the need for localised and inclusive engagement, to better understand the daily transport-related barriers that people living in the region faced. As mentioned by Esme Yuill, the Transport East region is extremely rural, meaning that the accessibility of town centres by walking or public transport is even lower than the rural average. All the panellists agreed that there is a need for an integrated transport plan in the region, focusing especially on reducing car dependency.

Understanding how people use different transport links, and the needs of different communities, can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Sarah Jane Crawford emphasised the importance of listening to people, providing an example of a rail connection removed during Covid which was known to everyone in the area as the “school train”. The importance and value of local knowledge provided by stakeholders were emphasised during the panel, as many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are listened to.

In addition to this, there is a need to make train journeys more appealing to the local community. A stable journey, meaning a reliable train to reduce ‘dead time’ is important to entice people to use public transport. By making the journey time reliable it can result in a more comfortable experience with public transport.

Marny Moruzzi who is Vice President of Women in Transport noted that “we need to pay more attention to community-based initiatives” pointing out that with the number of big projects in the region, engaging with local towns and villages is crucial. Marny rightly mentioned that there is a reason why people enjoy living in rural areas and that sometimes too much development can cause resentment as it could spoil the rurality of the region. That’s why communication and localised engagement are crucial when developing new transport improvements, as well as when thinking of proposed projects.

Another point discussed was the transition to electric vehicles, given how many people need to drive in the East region, to be able to access work, school and health facilities. Esme Yuill highlighted the various issues associated with chargers’ placement, firstly, on often historic streets, and secondly considering the commercial and political challenges.

All panellists agreed that there is no one thing that will be able to mitigate the unique challenges that the region currently faces. As a third of people in the East live in rural areas, it is especially important to improve transport in those areas. Transport East has been developing a Centre of Excellence for rural mobility, focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with transport in the region.

 

To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Connecting the Rural Areas, click here (you may need to register in order to be able to access the recording.)

This year a number of the challenges which have long been facing the water sector have reached boiling point. After a year of negative press attention focused on storm overflows, hosepipe bans, bosses’ bonuses and leaking pipes, both water companies and Ofwat are under increased public and political scrutiny. 

This wave of coverage has been gaining momentum since the summer. Where previously the water industry had struggled to captivate public attention, customers and other stakeholders are increasingly seeing the industry in papers, alongside worrying about the effect it has on their pockets.  

All this comes at a time when public trust in the ability to deliver new water infrastructure is needed more than ever. 

It may be reassuring then that these concerns have resulted in calls for action. Recent research undertaken by Copper Consultancy found that 66% of the public thinks new infrastructure is needed and 40% think it’s needed urgently. This readiness, combined with an interest in direct effects to the water coming out of our taps, creates an opportunity to inform. It’s well established that a lack of understanding on a topic can act as a barrier to engagement. As we enter 2023, what’s needed is public education, alongside technical solutions and possible regulatory reforms, if we are to successfully address these challenges. 

Pressure from the public and the media has inevitably been reinforced politically, with Labour and the Lib Dems having sought to put clear blue water between themselves and the current Conservative administration. The Lib Dems have called for banning bonuses until leaky pipes are repaired, while shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, has accused Coffey’s first term as Defra minister a ‘monumental sewage spillage.’  

However, the public and political prioritisation of issues with the boldest optics risks short-term wins leading to little recognition of the long-term challenges facing the industry. Improvements to distribution networks, such as new reservoirs, decarbonising water treatment, and adaptation to the impacts of climate change and a growing population will take time to deliver and mean local communities will need to be ready for change.   

The relationship between water companies – as developers of new infrastructure – and the public is complex. Local communities are their customers, as well as being planning stakeholders, voters and the ultimate end users of physical infrastructure projects in their area. There is no one single story to be told by the water sector. Communicating the need for new projects and technologies will require different channels and entry points. But beyond the news cycle and politicking, it appears that the public are ready for change and still willing to listen.    

Our 2022 research, Readiness and reassurance: A study of public attitudes to water infrastructure, can be found here, for more information contact Andew.Weaver@copperconsultancy.com.  

At this year’s Highways UK, Copper Consultancy hosted an in-person panel event at Highways UK on biodiversity implementation. The event, chaired by Copper Director for Infrastructure and Major Projects Andrew Weaver, focused on the role the sector could play in enhancing biodiversity on projects and the value add of new initiatives – featuring insight from Kate Vincent (Atkins), Howard Gray (GreenBlue Urban), Liz Allchin (Jacobs) and Joanna Gilroy (Balfour Beatty plc). 

The key takeaway from the session focused on the need for biodiversity implementation at the early stages of the project lifecycle. All panellists agreed that, too often, biodiversity is seen as a blocker to projects’ acceptance, with net zero goals being deemed “too hard” to achieve.  

Dismantling these myths and heightening overall awareness and education of concepts like biodiversity net gain can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Kate Vincent emphasised the importance of digital collaboration, as well as valuing the local knowledge of the stakeholders; adding that many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are being listened to. 

Liz Allchin, meanwhile, noted that “we need to look at biodiversity from the perspective of habitats and not species” pointing out that too often biodiversity is only thought of at the end of the project. Especially when project teams are heavily engineering-focused, there is a need for senior leadership teams to make sure that the ecological aspects aren’t overlooked.  

Joana Gilroy also highlighted the need to transition away from the traditional cost/benefit analysis of road projects, arguing that the industry needs to find a way to value ecosystems, as well as stop focusing on who pays for adding to areas’ biodiversity. Ultimately, it’s all of us that will lose out if flora and fauna are sabotaged without mitigation measures in place.  

With the requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain in all Nationally Significant Infrastructure projects incoming in November 2023, panellist Howards Gray rightfully acknowledged that biodiversity is no longer going to be a ‘nice thing to have’. For this to succeed, the cost, social and ecological aspects must be valued equally. There is a need for planners and developers to look at projects holistically and link biodiversity goals to other KPIs – ensuring that the strategic objectives of the projects are clearly understood at the start of the project lifecycle.  

 

To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Biodiversity Net Gain from February 2022, click here 

Close to 75% of businesses expect to expand the types of major change initiatives they will undertake from 2020-2023, but 50% of change initiatives fail. Ronan Cloud, Director of Economic Development at Copper, explains why.

Now, more than ever, we’re living through a period of change. It’s happening in every industry. From adopting digital-first approaches to implementing policies that support the race to net zero, organisations are restructuring the way they do things.

Building resilience to change itself is also becoming more prevalent, with many businesses taking a data-led approach to stimulate, predict and facilitate internal change.

However, half of all change initiatives fail.

Why?

Many change initiatives are imposed upon employees, reducing their longevity as they are not tailored to and embedded within company ethos. Employee sentiment plays a pivotal role in change initiatives, so engaging them in the journey is key.

  • Change generally isn’t communicated effectively to employees and the benefits aren’t demonstrated convincingly.

A dedicated communication strategy for rolling out change is often overlooked in favour of advancing operational models, which often leaves communication by the wayside.

  • Change management efforts fail to be tracked, evaluated and adapted.

The success of a change programme is largely based on employee reception and an organisation’s ability to adapt accordingly. This step can be the difference between ignored and accepted.

  • There is a lack of executive sponsorship or leadership.

A top-down approach is often not considered, resulting in a lack of senior buy-in and advocacy. Change is about vision and inspiration, which needs to be driven from the top.

Building change to last

While operational change is the key to changing business models, the real shift in people comes from behaviour change. That’s why we recently launched our change management solution – C:change.

C:change enables organisations to build momentum for their change programme by engaging stakeholders and bringing them on a journey. The five-step model takes a co-creation approach, working with your audience to develop and deploy change management programmes, ensuring we build advocacy at every step.

Capture the imagination

Communication remains avital aspect of articulating and demonstrating the benefits that businesses are making. But, more importantly, it’s the platform for companies to explain why the change matters and to showcase their vision for the future – capturing the imagination. After all, people are far more likely to come on the journey if they know the destination.

Striking the right balance

Change management programmes must strike the right balance between driving advocacy and empowering change. This stems from having a rich understanding of employee behaviours and attitudes, which can help futureproof change strategies. Essentially, taking more of a psychologist’s view will ensure change lasts.

For change to be successful, a behavioural shift is required – both in how you operate and communicate.

Find out more. Contact Ronan Cloud, Director of Economic Development at Copper.

Learn more about C:change.

In our latest insight report, Copper looks at the impact of major infrastructure projects through the eyes of the communities they serve – assessing past actions, understanding today’s experiences and identifying what could be improved for future projects.

You can read the report here: The infrastructure lifecycle from the perspective of communities.

 

As we begin to see more scrutiny over the public purse in post-Covid Britain, we may see a proportion of funding diverted away from large, strategic transport projects.

We need a step-change in our relationships with privately owned cars if we are to reach our net zero targets.

Read the report here.

After one of the warmest and driest summers on record, hosepipe bans announced in parts of the country and questions over wastewater discharges, the water industry is firmly in the public eye.

This report sets out what the public think about water infrastructure and makes recommendations to industry about how we can best communicate the solutions that will keep the taps flowing.

Read the report here.

Why the water sector now needs to raise its profile; explaining the paradox of drought and flooding coexisting in the UK; how can the regulator, supply chain and water companies prepare the public for new projects. 

Copper chaired an interview with Graham Dalton (Non-Executive Director, Scottish Water), Scott Aitken (Managing Director, Binnies) and Affie Panayiotou (WRc) to discuss how we can help prepare the water sector for the wave of new infrastructure the UK needs.  

For the last few decades, the industry has been leading on many successful maintenance, efficiency and upgrade programmes, as well as delivering London’s new super sewer. Industry has been making sure the system works. When we all turn on the taps in our homes, factories and farms the water we all take for granted is there, to a high standard with no questions asked. When you flush the toilet or take a shower, you don’t need to think about what happens next. 

But, to deal with population changes, deal with climate adaptation and help reach net zero, new projects are needed. 

If industry is to deliver the right projects, and to deliver those to time and budget, we need to earn the trust of our stakeholders, politicians, media and communities for each and every project. We need to take the public with us and make no assumptions that because our projects are needed, we already have a societal licence to operate. 

Water is safe, when you turn the tap on drinking water flows and when you flush the loo the drains work – so why do people need to know more than that? 

The panellists discussed the idea that, historically, there has been no major benefit to raising the water sector’s profile. Television adverts across Scotland are good examples of where consumer behaviours are nudged to stop flushing wet wipes and plastics, but this is focused on operational issues. 

So why does that need to change?  

In order to build new, successful projects – reservoirs, waste water plants, water reuse projects, pipelines, renewable energy projects – promoters will need to involve stakeholders, community groups, residents and the public in shaping them. It is the right thing to do. But also, without this, we run the risk that the political reaction is that projects are happening ‘to people’, not ‘for them’, making consent and construction more costly and challenging. 

What do people hear now? 

Today, the industry mainly deals with an apathetic customer, apart from when there are issues. Focus groups show that people still refer to ‘The Water Board’. There has been little compulsion for change. 

Copper’s own research, soon to be published, shows that there is limited knowledge about the water sector amongst the public. There is also a conflicting narrative in the UK – drought and floods coexisted in the UK over the summer. Confusion reigns and to be able to build relationships with communities, we need to earn trust. 

We need to get communities involved in our solutions 

To deliver benefits created by water infrastructure investment, we need smart engagement strategies which involve audiences – not just tell them what’s happening. To create social value, one needs to be able to hold constructive conversations. 

But to secure the licence to hold this conversation, we need to be very clear about what problems we are solving. Describing the infrastructure and its impacts will only serve to educate those motivated to listen. 

In building support for projects, identify the common benefits with key stakeholders, the red lines you won’t cross and an acceptance of key issues. This ‘stakeholder handshake’ gives one the opportunity to go back to basics on tough times and celebrate successes when there is the opportunity. 

Capital investment will find it challenging to be a success if we don’t build a case, brand and reputation to show how projects are part of the answer to ensuring water can be relied on without a second thought. 

What now? 

Collaboration is key. It not just one organisation’s job to tell the story to communities. The regulator has a role in incentivising the right behaviours. Water companies’ programmes show a confidence in the UK marker. The supply chain has an opportunity to bring innovation and show how infrastructure can be so much more than pipes and concrete. Together we can create new public spaces, modern facilities, jobs as well as a system with a smaller environmental footprint. 

While it may still seem a long way off, we are fast approaching party conference season – and this year’s conference season promises to be among the most pivotal in recent times for the infrastructure sector.

The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham will be the first major set piece event for the Party’s new leader and the UK’s new Prime Minister. In Liverpool, the Labour Party will be keen to demonstrate that they are a government in waiting. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will be making their way to Brighton, hoping to show they can offer different solutions to the challenges the UK is facing.

We have set out below the three main reasons why party conference season should not be missed this year for those in the infrastructure sector:

 

  1. It is the perfect way to build a strong understanding of the new infrastructure policy landscape

Debate around infrastructure policy has been a key part of the Conservatives leadership hustings. Whilst those hustings provide an early indication on the direction of travel, Conference will see a new government start to provide greater detail on their plans.

It is also worth noting that what is said at hustings during the leadership campaign is aimed predominantly at winning votes from Conservative members, whereas the new government will be seeking more national appeal at Conference.

Finally, fringe events will allow new ministers and influential MPs to go into more detail about their views and policy ideas – and crucially, provide an opportunity for you to ask questions about the policies that matter to your organisation. Only by being at Conference can you get this level of understanding.

 

  1. Conference will give you a head start in getting to know who is who, and understanding what drives the new government

A new Prime Minister does not just mean a change in who occupies Number 10. It means the creation of a whole new administration.  While there may well be some familiar faces, from ministers, to advisers, to officials, there is going to be significant change in personnel. Conference is the perfect time to build new relationships and crucially gain a better understanding of what the new administration think – from fringe events to meetings.

 

  1. Start to insulate your organisation against political change

While last year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton was a pivotal one for Sir Keir Starmer as he sought to sure up his leadership, this year’s conference looks to be even more critical as the party seeks to demonstrate that it is a government in waiting.

Conference plays an important part in both the Lib Dem and Labour’s policy making process, and what is discussed in fringe and on the floor could feasibly become government policy in years to come.  Party Conference’s therefore represent an opportunity to listen and engage with policy at the early stage, and again, to understand who is driving these policy positions within respective Parties.

 

Copper will be in attendance at Labour Party Conference (Liverpool 25 – 28 Sept), Conservative Party Conference (Birmingham 2 – 5 Oct) and Liberal Democrat Conference (17 -20 Sept). We would be delighted to discuss how we can support you this conference season.

To arrange an introductory meeting or catch-up session while at Labour Party Conference please contact patrick.traynor@copperconsultancy.com , at Conservative Party Conference, please contact pearce.branigan@copperconsultancy.com and at Liberal Democrat Party Conference, please contact imogen.fawcett@copperconsultancy.com.

 

We are also hosting dinners for those in the infrastructure sector at Labour and Conservative conferences, please do get in touch with the team above if you are interested in attending.