Facebook Pixel
Skip to content

Strong leadership key to reaching sustainability goals

I once heard that 80% of carbon emissions created across the world come from businesses.

That's a startling statistic.

It shows why business and political leaders must be responsible and help make the world a greener, safer place.

Sustainability is an important issue for me. I feel, as leader of CITB, a deep responsibility to ensure we operate in a way my grandchildren would want me to, so that the world we leave them is one they can enjoy in the same way my generation has.

Leadership challenges

We all know what the challenges are. Globally, progress on climate action has not been anywhere near fast enough.

  • UK homes are some of the least energy-efficient in Europe, responsible for nearly a quarter of our total emissions. According to the Climate Change Committee, we need to spend £45bn over the next 15 years to retrofit our homes.
  • Governments across the UK have committed to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050 (2045 in Scotland).

It pains me to hear some of the current rhetoric that “green stuff” might be a choice. This view implies a lack in understanding the enormity of the issue. The potential impact of climate change is a cost we can’t afford. The clock is ticking.


During the Spring and early Summer, I spoke about the importance of green skills at conferences held by EU Skills, the British Association of Construction Heads and the Federation of Master Builders. I know, from a previous life in sustainability, that construction has some of the most innovative and creative business models across all sectors. Some of the work in construction to reach Net Zero is brilliant.

Even so, when profit margins are tight and sustainable options are more expensive, investing in sustainability can be a tough call for a business leader to make. But we must never give up. We must find a way to make Net Zero options a more compelling cost option or make clients more discerning when it comes to sustainable options.


I was also pleased to be part of the first Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce meeting, held in May. This is a passion of mine and during my speeches I emphasised that CITB is not pursuing Net Zero goals as a bolt-on to everything else we are doing. If we did that we would merely compete with other priorities.

Net Zero, or should I say sustainability – Net Zero is a milestone to sustainability - is a corporate value and it shapes everything we do and how we do it. It’s not a bolt-on but a way of running our business.

We’re in a great position at CITB because our job is to create social value. For example, CITB helps to train approximately 30,000 apprentices a year. The impact of that, the social value we create, is massive. That’s 30,000 people who have the life chances I had when I finished my apprenticeship.

Giving 30,000 apprentices an understanding in Net Zero means our impact on this agenda is potentially huge. Apprentices are the business leaders of the future. By doing our work well we naturally create social value – that’s part of sustainability.

In fact, how good do you think that makes us feel? I can tell you it’s a great purpose. It gets me out of bed every morning to do a job I love, one which has great impact. Social value is only going to rise in the years ahead. As CITB’s Head of Industry and Analysis Forecasting Marcus Bennett says, "from now on all jobs are green jobs”.


As Leadership is key to addressing Net Zero goals, so too is collaboration.

In April I was pleased to see the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS), part funded by CITB, receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development. The school does some brilliant work in this area and long may that continue.

As you would expect, CITB has ambitious plans. We are developing a Net Zero action plan to be published later this year. This follows our March 2021 research Building Skills for Net Zero and our November 2021 report Net Zero and Construction: Perspectives and Pathways.

We have also begun work on a Sustainability Strategy. It will cover our work internally and externally and be out next Spring. In short, CITB is compiling the evidence needed to make the right choices and put in place foundations on which a skills system is rebuilt.

I hope this work will be well-received however, I must be honest and say I am keenly aware that, like a lot of organisations, CITB needs to accelerate and expand the work we’re doing.

I will ensure we strive to improve our sustainability and social value.


An important part of leadership is to show example. My lifestyle has changed a lot over the last few years.

I became vegetarian. I drive an electric car (my fourth) and I insulated my previous house beyond the building specifications at the time. I’ve a new house now, smaller than my previous one, insulating it is my priority.

We can all play a part, at work and at home, in making the world a safer place for ourselves and the next generation.

I’m looking forward to leading CITB’s work on training a green-skilled workforce, helping industry innovate and seeing how our research and investment will benefit the sector and society.

I’d love to hear from you on the changes you’re making. Let me know!

If you would like to share your views on Tim’s blog, please get in touch via ceo@citb.co.uk.