London, 25 November 2013.

Having only a few days ago pointed out how the UK Government has been missing the potential benefits of the sustainability legacy from the London 2012 Games, I am pleasantly surprised to come across a highly readable and sensible policy document emanating from HM Treasury that really does pick up on an important aspect of the Games legacy.

The Infrastructure Carbon Review – admittedly not a snazzy title – makes the important statement that all infrastructure and construction projects should strive to reduce their carbon impact and that this should be as central to their purpose as cost-efficiency.  The report clearly emphasises the business case for sustainability, particularly in relation to carbon management and sets out a series of practical steps for organisations and projects to put this into effect.

I was especially pleased to see that one of the three case studies highlighted referred to London 2012:

“1.19      For the London 2012 Olympics, clear and challenging sustainability targets were set pre-procurement. These were reinforced in tender documents and contracts that allowed for innovation, resulting in a 20 per cent carbon reduction between concept design and construction.

1.20        The low carbon agenda underpinning the 2012 London Olympics was led from the top. Senior managers believed in it, owned it and kept it live:

  •  Time was taken at the start to plan rather than rushing into the build phase. Project scope, budget and funding were pinned down early. The supply chain was then challenged to drive sustainability while beating the budget and delivery objectives.
  •  The right people with the right practical skills were recruited early on. The project culture enabled and encouraged challenge between all parties, resulting in identification and support for innovative solutions. Resources and knowledge were shared between projects.
  • Sustainability was embedded through every part of the delivery chain. Contracts were assessed on a best whole life value basis. Challenging targets were set for sustainable materials and resource efficiency, including carbon, water and waste. A reliable and independent assurance body was employed to safeguard transparency and check credibility.”

I know this specifically refers to the permanent infrastructure delivered by the Olympic Delivery Authority, but it could just as easily have referred to the approach we took at the London 2012 Organising Committee.  And then of course look who signed it off: none other than my former boss Lord Deighton, now Chief Commercial Secretary to the Treasury.

Further endorsement of the Infrastructure Carbon Review comes from the UK Green Building Council, whose Chief Executive Paul King said: “The Olympics clearly demonstrated that the UK is a world leader in the delivery of major infrastructure projects, and many more of these, such as Crossrail, are set to follow.

“But the emphasis is on how we develop these projects in a way that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. Through this review, industry will provide leadership on the business case for low carbon infrastructure, showing how cutting costs and carbon actually go hand in hand to create a more efficient and competitive industry.”

We often talked about the need for the methods and practices developed for London 2012 to be fed into the ways of working of industry in general and here is a great example of what we meant.  Now before I get carried away, I do recognise that this latest initiative has involved a much wider consultation that the London 2012 diaspora and might very likely have come about without us having hosted the Games.  But London 2012 did happen and our efforts and learnings have contributed to this new approach from Government.  So in my book that is a piece of legacy.

Of course it is easy policy in that much of the onus is on others – project developers and industry – to deliver the change, but there is also clear recognition that Government can and should take the lead.

Let’s just hope the Government really means it and our Prime Minister does not dismiss it as more “green crap”.