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5 business lessons underpinning Skanska's ethical credentials

Mike Putnam talks about how Scandinavian construction company Skanska is leading the way with its sustainable approach.

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Years before it was trendy to be ethical; long before everyone rushed to jump on the ‘green’ bandwagon – Scandinavian construction company Skanska was building an admirably genuine and completely sound foundation for an ethical and sustainable business.

Its efforts have been rewarded, with Skanska UK winning The Sunday Times Best Green Company 2011, alongside topping a host of other industry benchmarks in quality, sustainability and ethical approaches. Skanska is one of the world’s ten largest construction companies, with revenue of £11 billion a year, and employing 52,000 people who work on 10,000 projects a year. The company operates in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the UK, the US and Latin America.

“An ethical approach and responsible business conduct are the primary focus for Skanska,” says Mike Putnam, President and CEO Skanska UK. “We don’t view this as a tick-box exercise, it is a live, ongoing issue. We talk about it a lot; we believe in it. We are a founder member of the UN Global Compact, which sets out ethical dealings and treatment.

“There are many businesses which claim to operate in an open and transparent way, but Skanska takes this to a completely different level. I would say we are totally transparent and that we walk the talk. Staff across the company – from construction workers to the Group Board – respect this, and are invested in our Five Zeros, which reflect our core values: zero loss-making projects, zero accidents, zero environmental incidents, zero ethical breaches, and zero defects.”

Mike joined Skanska after graduating, and embodies the company’s commitment to staff development. “I am a Chartered Civil Engineer and started with Skanska as a sponsored student. I love this company, the people, and the excellent level of training provided. Another big strength of Skanska is its internal talent development – we predominantly hire from within.”

He adds: “An ethical approach comes from the top. People at a senior level have been promoted or fired on the basis of ethical conduct. It’s very easy to do business when senior management have a basic expectation of openness and transparency – we tell it as it is.”

5 business lessons

  1. Act quickly: Some action is better than none – there is a danger in ignoring things.
  2. Communicate well: This is something we are continually developing at Skanska – I don’t feel you can ever communicate enough.
  3. Create the right atmosphere: We’ve spent a lot of time here forming a culture – we’re unusual in that way.
  4. Don’t assume anything: Always ask questions, verify your information.
  5. Thrive on change: Even if you do a good job today, you can always do it better tomorrow. Be smarter as individuals, as teams, as organisations.

Visit www.skanska.co.uk for more information.

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK