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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Environmental and diverse: Bringing more women into the construction sector – Heather Binnie, Senior Environmental Advisor at nmcn Plc

Heather Binnie

Heather Binnie is a senior environmental advisor at nmcn Plc, a construction company that spans a range of sectors, including water, highways, building and utilities. As a senior environmental consultant, Heather has experience of environmental auditing, production of legal registers and environmental training. She studied earth and environmental science at Lancaster University.

Heather Binnie
Heather Binnie

“It’s so important to enjoy your job, you’ll get more out of it that way – getting out of bed in the morning will not be a chore.”

If you’d have told me, I wouldn’t have believed it

When I finished school, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with my career. I chose to study earth and environmental science at Lancaster University as I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and the course offered a number of practical field trips. The course was really varied and gave me lots of food for thought with what I wanted to do as a career – which included working to better the environment.

nmcnOnce I had finished my degree, I managed to get a job at a local environmental consultancy, Environmental Monitoring Solutions. As a consultant, I worked for a variety of companies in different business sectors including construction, waste management, transport and manufacturing. I really enjoyed the role of a consultant as it offered me many opportunities to travel around the country, meeting new people and learning lots of different aspects of environmental management.

Afterwards, I joined the construction firm Amco-Giffen as a sustainability and assurance advisor. In 2018 I joined nmcn Plc as an environmental advisor, recently having been given the title of senior environmental advisor.

If you’d have said to me when I graduated from university that I would end up working for a construction company I wouldn’t have believed it – I never saw construction to be really invested in environment and sustainability. But I thoroughly enjoy working in this sector, there are constantly new things to learn when it comes to management and eco-products to use on sites and new challenges to improve the industry when it comes to its impact to overcome.

A job that keeps me on my toes

Every day is different for me at nmcn. As senior environmental advisor, I am, along with my colleagues, responsible for ensuring that our sites remain legally compliant, our ISO14001 system is kept up to date and we achieve our targets set in our sustainability strategy, our Positive Impact Plan.

I carry out site audits and inspections on a regular basis, supporting the site teams to ensure they are fully compliant with legislation and our operating procedures. I also provide guidance and support to the sites as required and help drive thinking around reducing our impact on the environment, whether that’s through reusing materials or waste. I am responsible for our environmental audit plan, working with a colleague to ensure we are providing consistent support and achieve our targets.

I am also fully responsible for our legal register, carrying out monthly reviews and updating the business as necessary including collaboration with the Environment Agency where required, which builds on my experience working as a consultant previously.

I have developed a bespoke, virtually facilitated Environmental Awareness Training for nmcn, which I am currently delivering to the whole business. In addition to this, I increase general awareness by developing a short lunch and learn or bite-sized e-learning sessions on environmental topics. My job is varied and can change daily, keeping me on my toes.

Positive impact

nmcn (formerly known as North Midland Construction Plc/Nomenca Ltd) is a UK-based engineering and construction company with a 2000-strong workforce, offering multi-sector engineering and construction skills, technical innovation, design and specialist fabrication.

The company delivers major built environment and water industry projects across the UK – from buildings and highways to large-scale water networks and treatment plants.

In 2018, we developed and launched our sustainability strategy ‘Positive Impact Plan (PIP) 2025’ in line with our purpose to have ‘a positive impact on everything we touch’. The plan has five key priorities that are material to our business:

  • Our people
  • Our impact
  • Our communities
  • Thinking differently
  • Better business

The plan brings our purpose to life by enabling our colleagues to understand how they can bring a positive impact through their everyday actions. It plays a big part of my role as it sets some seven-year 2025 goals, focusing its efforts on reinvigorating and evolving its sustainability ambition to impact on the areas that matter the most.

The challenges we face

As a multi-disciplinary construction company, we work in a variety of sectors, which means that we can come up against a wide range of challenges, such as the different regulations applicable to the various sectors. It is important to stay up-to-date with industry best practice and compliance to ensure that this information is successfully shared throughout the business in all relevant areas.nmcn van

As a national business, we work all over England and also Wales, so it can also be a challenge to provide a high level of support to all our colleagues, wherever they may be.

Our team prides itself on accessibility and professionalism even in challenging circumstances. During lockdown we conducted virtual inspections and audits to go through paperwork and be taken around sites remotely, it was really successful and something we are looking to do more of in the future.

Other challenges, this time brought by COVID-19

I’ve been mostly working at home since the first lockdown and I had a couple of months unable to visit sites.

This was difficult to adapt to at first as I found it hard to switch off at the end of the working day. I spent much of my time during the first lockdown catching up on procedure updates and developing our internal training for remote delivery. We are now back up to full speed and I’ve been visiting sites most weeks. Since the announcement of the second national lockdown, I will be continuing to conduct site visits complying with all our new safety measures that have been implemented, including wearing masks when not sat down.

The virtual site inspections and audits, which we’ve been carrying out for the past few months have not only helped us to reduce our carbon emissions driving up and down the country but have ensured we’ve been able to provide quicker responses to sites, which has had a positive response.

Increasing diversity at nmcn

Diversity is important because, without it, things don’t change and will stagnate. There is so much evidence available which shows that a diverse workforce is more productive and makes good business sense. The more diverse a workforce is, the fewer minorities will be judged for their differences or feel like the ‘odd one out’.

People from different backgrounds, whether it’s a difference such as which city you grew up in, or something bigger which may impact your outlook on life (such as where your family comes from), can bring so much experience and diversity and may allow you to look at situations in a different way when searching for a solution.

I’m the vice-president and a founding member of nmcn’s own Diversity Network so it’s something that I am personally very passionate about and I am proud to be a part of nmcn’s inclusion journey. I’m looking forward to growing the network and increasing our members further in the future.

Advice for girls and women interested in getting into the construction sector

My advice to girls and women is to do something you’re passionate about. It’s so important to enjoy your job, you’ll get more out of it that way – getting out of bed in the morning will not be a chore. Although it can be difficult being the only woman in a room full of men (especially in the construction sector – speaking from experience), you can come up against judgement and prejudice in any sector.

Keeping in mind that creating an inclusive environment is something we all mindfully contribute to and a truly inclusive environment won’t happen overnight, we all have a role to play.

For the first time ever, there are over one million women working in the STEM sector according to the recent statistics, which is a reason to celebrate. Don’t judge a sector or the people working within it by what you see on the outside. If it is something you are passionate about, pursue your passion, work hard at it to be sure to show that women are key to drive to workplace diversity and better performance results.

Continuing to grow

nmcnAs a business, we are continuing to grow in our chosen sectors. We are progressing well with our Positive Impact Plan and the first year has demonstrated great success in our impact areas as we continue working towards our 2025 ambitions. We are also working with a number of our clients to support their sustainability journeys including carbon reductions.

Working at nmcn gives me the opportunity to develop and progress my career. I’m currently enrolled on a two-year Master’s in sustainability and environmental management course at the University of Derby, with the support of nmcn as part of my development plan.

This is helping me to grow in my role as senior environmental advisor and enables me to support nmcn in delivering our Positive Impact Plan 2025 strategy. nmcn has been really supportive of this and allows me to use one day a week to study. I love to learn new things and support our sites and the business to be the best they possibly can.

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