Prime Minister Reinfeldt visited London on Thursday. After the meeting at No10 the Prime Minister joined David Cameron for a visit to Bart’s Hospital in the East End of London. This was not motivated, I’m pleased to say, by the need for an unplanned trip to the Emergency Room for either Head of Government. But rather to see at first hand a great example of UK/Swedish cooperation that’s both good for business and good for the community.
The reason for this is that Bart’s is undergoing a huge refurbishment project under the leadership of the Swedish construction contractor Skanska. And it’s an extraordinary project. This is not just because it is turning a building that was somewhat the worse for wear into a bright, modern hospital. But it is also because of the ways that Skanska has thought about how it makes a positive impact on the people and places around Bart’s. And this is impressive.
Get this. Skanska reduced its deliveries to the site by 78% by using a specially designed offsite consolidation centre that reduced considerably disruption to local residents and the community. Fully 92% of the waste from the project is reused or recycled. Skanska have brought jobs to the area, employing over 20,000 people at various stages in the project and giving priority to workers from the local community (in fact 15% of the jobs went to locals). Bart’s was also part of the Skanska Project, an initiative that the company undertook to work with the long term unemployed – to assist them into sustainable employment in the construction industry and to up-skill the existing workforce. 96 candidates completed the initial pre-employment training and 55 then gained employment through the Skanska supply chain. Meanwhile Skanska assisted a diverse work force to gain 123 NVQs. It’s not for nothing that the project was the Winner of European Business Award for the Environment 2010 and the City of London Considerate Contractor Environment Award 2010. And Skanska was the winner of the 2010 Sunday Times Greenest Company award.
The Prime Ministers – and indeed all of us that visited – saw for ourselves what a difference it makes when a company thinks more widely about what it can achieve. And this is a great model for the future. We plan for UK infrastructure investment worth some £200 billion over the next five years. In the same period Sweden will be spending £45 billion on rail and road infrastructure. This means jobs and investment and opportunities for British and Swedish companies that think green and think big. I’m feeling better already, thanks Doc.