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Skanska - building a better, greener UK

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Famous for delivering iconic buildings such as the Gherkin and major infrastructure projects including High Speed Two (HS2), its focus on sustainability and climate change long before they were on the global corporate agenda, Swedish construction company Skanska is not just making a mark in the industry, but also on the UK built environment. Now over 20 years old in the UK, Skanska continues to drive the industry forward, and in a more sustainable direction, bringing its Swedish heritage as well as its wider global knowledge and expertise to a wide range of customers.

“The UK is a very important market for us, and notably, it is one of the most successful countries in attracting inward investment. Indeed, it is very welcoming to businesses coming from abroad and there is a lot of support on offer from government and a pro-business environment,” says Anthony Arkle, Head of Public Affairs at Skanska UK.

Shaping the way we live for 135 years

Founded in Swedish city of Malmö in 1887, Skanska has played a key role in the history and construction of Sweden’s infrastructure, such as roads, power plants, offices and housing. Over the years, the company expanded its operations into various fields and markets, and whilst today, it is one of the largest construction and development companies in the world, the decisions taken by founder RF Berg 135 years ago still guide its purpose of building for a better society.

Skanska first entered the UK in 2000, through the acquisition of the construction division of Norwegian engineering and construction company Kvaerner. “When acquiring Kvaerner, we bought an established entity mainly based in southeast London, and then moved onto one of our best-known projects to this day – building the Gherkin, which was completed in 2003.”

“Today, in the UK, we’re mostly known as a contractor, but we’re also a big player in the property development markets in central Europe, the US and the Nordics. We invest our own cash into purchasing land and building houses, apartments, and office blocks, lease them and sell them to other investors or sell to homebuyers. Whether it’s motorways, the rail network or office buildings we understand that everything we do and every decision we make impacts people in some shape or form, and that consideration is core to our delivery approach.”

For example, Anthony mentions the residential housing company BoKlok, a joint venture 50/50 owned by Skanska and IKEA, now present in the UK. “We are investing our own money into delivering sustainable houses for the many, making us both developers as well as builders.”

Building the UK of tomorrow

Over the last 20 years, Skanska has not only influenced the infrastructure and looks of London, but also served as a role model in the green transition of the construction industry. In 2011, it was voted the greenest company in the UK by the Sunday Times magazine, something Anthony sees as an important milestone. “Being voted as the greenest company, not only in the UK construction industry, but out of all companies in the UK, was an important thing for us. Skanska has always prided itself on our credibility within sustainability, and we continue to work hard on doing so to this day.”

The last few years have seen considerable disruption across almost every single industry, but according to Anthony, the construction sector adapted and evolved quickly and has largely recovered, much thanks to the support of the UK government. “There have been challenges, of course, with multiple impacts including Brexit and the pandemic. However, due to its role in keeping critical infrastructure up and running, the industry largely continued to work through the pandemic.” he says and explains: “The UK government really supported the industry which enabled us to operate safely and efficiently.”

A Swedish-British construction company

Today, Skanska has 3,300 employees in the region, and Anthony believes that the company’s investment in the UK is an important part of its success. “Ours is a people business, meaning that we definitely need to have a local presence. Even if you are a contractor, or if you are providing consultancy services, you would need a local representative or agent to help you.”

Although a majority of the employees at Skanska UK are recruited locally, Anthony believes that Skanska is very much a Swedish company, because of the values brought from Sweden, and very much a British company, because of the people who work here.

And the UK has been a fruitful market for Swedish businesses, not least those operating in the construction industry. “Sweden, and the rest of the Nordics, are viewed in a very positive light in the UK. I think businesses here are eager to learn from them, and to make things happen here that you have already made happen in your countries.”

For any Swedish business looking to expand to the UK, Anthony recommends taking help by local authorities and experts, such as the Department for International Trade. “There's an awful lot of support available through different institutions and organisations. First and foremost, I would highlight Business Sweden and the Department for International Trade, who can both offer invaluable advice for any Swedish business new to the UK.”

And with the industry bouncing back from the challenges of the last few years, he believes the UK will speed up its construction plans again, making the future of the industry bright. For Skanska in particular, net-zero, social value and productivity are top priorities in the upcoming years for the UK market, some of which are government’s priorities too.

“There is a massive infrastructure programme in the pipeline, just waiting to happen. For example, there are individual schemes like the infrastructure project High Speed Two (HS2), which will be ongoing for 15-20 years, providing the backbone of UK infrastructure. Last but not least, the transition to net-zero will be put into practice, creating a lot of new opportunities for businesses.”


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