Awards spotlight: High Speed Two

Robert Slater and Hannah Rich discuss HS2’s strategic support for sustainable engagement with businesses and SMEs, which led to them winning IEMA’s Supply Chain Management Award

How large is your procurement team? 

Robert Slater: Since 2013, HS2 hasn’t done as much work on the ground, so our procurement team covers the end-to-end commercial lifecycle. We have supply chain management, and at the front end are procurement teams. Then there’s a commercial team and a supply relationship management team – so it’s expanded.

Did you follow a framework for sustainability to align with standards such as the UN SDGs? 

Hannah Rich: We looked at the HS2 benefits from a sustainability perspective, and they were based around the business case. As our sustainability team started doing more work around the SDGs, we looked at aligning the benefits and KPIs with those SDGS. 

How did you measure your outcomes?

HR: We have a monthly reporting tool for all our contractors and also a benefits reporting tool, which gather lots of data. Our specialists review how we are performing against various targets and identify any issues. We get information from the KPIs and develop dashboards. We look at how the contractors and their supply chains are performing, and how we can make improvements. We share best practice and lessons learned.

The judges were impressed with the engagement of local businesses and SMEs – how did you secure this?

RS: It’s been at the core of our supply chain engagement strategy, because in construction, SMEs are a huge part of the supply chain. It’s where you find a lot of the innovation. We’ve met with trade associations and business networks across the country to engage with SMEs so they can understand HS2 as a project.

To open up opportunities within the supply chain, we use a subcontract portal called CompeteFor, which is where our Tier 1 contractors publish their supply chain opportunities. We also host ‘meet the contractor’ events. Construction can be a ‘boom and bust’ industry, so it’s all about providing that pipeline of opportunity.

“50% carbon reduction is a massive commitment for a construction project”

How did your supply chain roadshows promote sustainability?

RS: They enabled us to get out and meet organisations that were going to be working both directly and indirectly for us, so they could see what we stand for and what they needed to work on if they wanted HS2 contracts – such as our equality, diversity, skills and employment agenda. We travel all around the country to ensure that all organisations can bid for and win HS2 contracts.

Did the public perception of the HS2 project create any problems?

RS: It’s been a challenging year. Now we have certainty, we continue to engage not just in England, but also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. When it’s up and running, benefits will come through increased capacity on the rail network, reducing lorries and cars on the road and decreasing the amount of freight on, for example, the existing West Coast mainline. High speed rail is a very low-carbon method of travel, so sustainability has many meanings –both during construction and during the operation of the railway.

HR: It’s difficult to compare the positive and negative aspects. There will be environmental damage during construction, but also a lot of long-term environmental gain with improved air quality and benefits around the supply chains and the economy. The environmental minimal requirements go above and beyond any project that I’ve ever worked on in the UK – a 50% carbon reduction is a massive commitment for a construction project. It will be the first major project to look at targeting no net-loss, and potentially a net-gain, in biodiversity. 

How did you find the awards ceremony? How did it feel to win?

RS: The awards ceremony was great. From a personal perspective, it was great to understand what other teams and projects have been doing in this sphere. As supply chain managers we always want to learn from best practice across a range of industries. 

HS2 highlights

  • 2,000 businesses have delivered work on HS2. SMEs represent 70% of the supply chain, with 99% representing UK-based companies.
  • HS2 has supported sustainable improvement within its supply chain, putting out challenges to the market at Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels.
  • Air quality impacts have been mitigated (surpassing the EU air quality emission standard) by developing route-wide ‘Euro VI’ emissions standards for on and off-road construction vehicles and equipment.


For further information on the IEMA Sustainability Impact Awards 2020 visit:

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