Wates is expecting client conversations over the British steel crisis to start soon, according to its chief executive.
Andrew Davies told Construction News that although the contractor doesn’t directly procure steel, he anticipates clients will be asking about its steel procurement soon as the crisis engulfing the British steel industry continues.
Mr Davies said: “It’s a really tough one for everyone. Like any contractor we have to reflect what our clients want and what their aspirations and wishes are.”
Clients like Network Rail and Highways England are being encouraged to consider the use of British steel in future contracts, as pressure ramps up on the government over its handling of the Tata Steel closure.
Under new procurement guidelines unveiled by business secretary Sajid Javid, public sector bodies such as Network Rail, Highways England and the NHS will be required to consider the social and economic impact on the UK before buying steel from abroad.
But Wates will not be forced into signing a document for political means, Mr Davies intimated.
Wates is not a signatory to the Charter for Sustainable British Steel, unlike other contractors including Balfour Beatty and Morgan Sindall.
It also subcontracts procurement of its steel to supply chain partners.
Mr Davies said: “We’re not getting sucked into signing this, that or the other… we want to have a reflective set of discussions with our customers, understand their policy and strategy objectives for the wider economy and we have to reflect that in the way we bid with them.
“Steel is procured through our supply chain. We’re going to have to take note of what the prime contract obligations are, and if it’s in the public sector they’ll have to take note of what their competition policies are as well.
“This isn’t as simple as do one thing or another, it’s about the whole supply chain from client to producer working to the policy aims the government is seeking from this situation.”
Asked whether clients were starting to talk to Wates about where its steel comes from, Mr Davies said “thus far, no, but I do anticipate it is coming”.
On what Wates would be saying to clients when those discussions start, Mr Davies said the group would listen to its clients’ demands rather than offer solutions.
”I’m not sure [what] we’ll be saying… we will be heavily listening to what our clients want us to do,” he said.