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How Sellafield’s Six programme supports social policy

Our SIx programme (social impact multiplied) ensures that at least £10m per year is spent by the business in the communities closest to our operations

By Sellafield Ltd  

General view of Sellafield Nuclear power plant, in Cumbria.

In 2012, Parliament introduced possibly the most important piece of legislation you’ve never heard of. Despite commanding enthusiastic cross-party support, the Public Services (Social Value) Act arrived with little fanfare.

Its aim is to ensure the public sector takes into account economic, social, and environmental factors when commissioning services. And for so-called ‘left behind’ communities, it could be life changing.

Jamie Reed, head of corporate affairs at Sellafield Ltd explains how the legislation triggered a chain reaction which is taking West Cumbria on a transformational journey.

“For decades, certain businesses have sought to meet challenges that extend beyond a straightforward businesslike existence. For some this is about brand enhancement, for others a straightforward, traditional approach to corporate philanthropy, whether through Corporate Social Responsibility or other initiatives.

At Sellafield Ltd, we’ve developed an approach that delivers enhanced value from our activities far beyond our primary responsibility to remediate the Sellafield nuclear site.

Owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), our day job is to meet the environmental and engineering challenges posed by one of the world’s most complex nuclear clean-up challenges.

But our ambition has never stopped at our perimeter fence.

Our SIx programme (social impact multiplied) ensures that at least £10m per year is spent by the business in the communities closest to our operations on projects co-created with local communities and based on key Sustainable Development Goals identified by the United Nations. This investment leverages in funding from other sources – often three times as much – and addresses longstanding areas in need of improvement in those identified communities.

SIx demonstrates how Sellafield Ltd is working to improve the sustainability of the communities in which we operate and in which the majority of our workforce lives.

In the process we are helping to create an environment capable of supporting the eco-system of businesses we require to complete our estimated 100-year mission, and the skilled workers and healthy communities necessary for this mission to succeed.This doesn’t simply embody the spirit of the Social Value ethos: it lives it. Crucially, this work also helps to deliver the ambitions of the national Industrial Strategy with its emphasis on place-based economic development, building upon the strengths of regions across the UK.

This approach helps to deliver the best possible value for the UK from the approximate £2bn of public money required to deliver the Sellafield mission each year and now sits at the forefront of advanced business approaches to achieving social value anywhere in Britain.”

Sellafield Ltd’s SIx programme focuses upon six objectives:

  1. Resilient Economies Projects that enable inclusive growth in the capacity, diversity and capability of our local economies
  2. Thriving Communities Projects that assist our communities to thrive by supporting sustainable activities that create self-reliance and independence
  3. Social Value Chains Projects that create the maximum social impact through the Sellafield supply chain
  4. Sustainable Incomes Projects that improve access to sustainable incomes, beyond Sellafield Ltd, by increasing skills, knowledge and access to economic opportunity
  5. Collective Impact Projects that leverage collective impact and investment by engaging and working with our stakeholders and partners from our local communities
  6. Improved Performance Success across these objectives helps to drive improved performance in the delivery of the Sellafield mission and in the value provided to the taxpayer as a consequence.

Since 2017, this approach has delivered significant success for those communities closest to Sellafield’s operations.

Campus Whitehaven  In Whitehaven – the largest town closest to the Sellafield site – Sellafield invested £10m into a new school campus which brought together a mainstream secondary school in need of replacement with a special educational needs school. This leveraged in excess of £30m with which a new school campus was built – representing the single largest investment in education seen in the town in over half a century.

The WELL Project  Co-created with local schools and Cumbria County Council, the ‘Western Excellence in Leadership and Learning’ (WELL) project is a £1.7m investment from Sellafield Ltd designed to raise attainment in every classroom in West Cumbria. Incorporating every primary and secondary school in the local authority areas of Allerdale and Copeland.

Economic Development and Diversification  In working to diversify those local economies most dependent upon Sellafield, investment has been made to leverage funding for the development of economic sectors unrelated to the nuclear industry. A £3.6m injection into a derelict bus station will soon become a business start-up centre for West Cumbrian entrepreneurs and a further £1.1m investment has helped to secure an additional £2.4m from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund with which to create a coastal activity centre on Whitehaven’s historic harbour.

Helping Communities Cope with Crisis  When the Covid-19 pandemic affected those communities closest to its operations, Sellafield worked with local recovery agencies to help provide food for the most vulnerable as well as £200,000 for the procurement of 20,000 items of PPE for the NHS in Cumbria. As the national economic recovery effort unfolds, Sellafield Ltd’s SIx programme provides a platform for economic recovery for its
local communities.

Increasingly, more is being asked of companies by their employees and the communities in which they are based.

In 2019, the widely respected Edelman Trust Barometer found that, overwhelmingly, employees expect their employers to be their partners in change – 67% of employees expected their company to tackle social issues – prompting Edelman to recommend that companies should care for the communities in which they operate by being “…part of the solution on education, inequality and infrastructure.”

Last August, after more than forty years of adhering to principles that prioritised shareholder value above everything else, the American Business Roundtable (the US equivalent of the CBI) made a dramatic change to its definition of the Purpose of a Corporation.

Its new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation was signed by leading American CEOs – including from JP Morgan, Johnson & Johnson and the Ford Foundation – who have now committed to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.

With all of this, Sellafield Ltd has been ahead of the curve.

Sellafield is one of the largest industrial sites in the UK and is home to the country’s largest concentration of nuclear skills and capabilities. Situated in the local authority area of Copeland, the site accounts for 58.7% of all local employment, directly and indirectly.

As the SIx programme demonstrates; Sellafield is changing.

Jamie Reed, who is also a former Member of Parliament for Copeland explains: “Delivering the Sellafield mission, in the national interest, is our primary objective. Wherever possible, we want to do this in a way which maximises the return on the public investment made in Sellafield and which helps the economies of those communities closest to our business to become more resilient and diverse.

The SIx programme is a key part of this: I’m not aware of any other business in our country making this degree of investment or demonstrating the level of collaboration with local stakeholders that we are. The Sellafield site has existed for over 70 years and we have a century of work still ahead of us.

At every point, we must maximise the value of the money we spend: for the taxpayer, our business, the NDA and our local communities. Our SIx programme does this, and, for all of our achievements so far, we’re still at the start of this process. The world is changing, business is changing and the potential for positive change is enormous.”

This piece forms part of the work Sellafield is carrying out on social policy

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