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Company profile

Turning the Page and Reconstructing an Industry

Peter Page, Head of Group Security at Travis Perkins PLC, on Building a New Lean and Green Security Team

“Build Back Better” has become something of a slogan for our time. Whether it has long-term political gravitas remains to be seen, but it certainly has weight and heft in environmental terms within the construction industry, where day-to-day activity accounts for a staggering 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions with all the associated hardcore risks that entails—from the health of the population to the heating of homes and the planet.

With more than three million people working in the construction sector and its supply chain—from building sites to builders’ merchants—its CO2 footprint represents a metaphorical size twelve with a steel-toe cap boot, which is why the industry is trying to decarbonise itself from the foundations up, with everything from greater use of more environmentally friendly building products to electric and alternative fuel trucks and forklift trucks in its builders’ yards.

To achieve this, the industry requires leadership as well as recognition of the scale of the issues and risks.

Travis Perkins PLC, the UK’s oldest (it has been in business for more than two hundred years) and largest supplier of materials to the building and construction industry has already put the building blocks of reducing its own risk exposure into place.

As a group with more than 1,400 branches, employing almost 16,000 colleagues, and supplying more than 100,000 products and materials, including a hire service for trade professionals and self-builders across the nation, it is a FTSE 250 company with a broad heritage and ambitious future that is focused upon risk reduction that includes leaner and greener solutions and practices.

Travis Perkins has already reframed its business with the divestment of Wickes in March of last year, allowing both businesses to focus on their distinctive strategies.

In May 2021, it also sold its UK plumbing and heating distribution business as part of a £325m deal with investment firm H.I.G. Capital, which saw the business divest the operations that primarily traded under the brands City Plumbing Supplies (CPS) and Plumbing Trade Solutions (PTS), as part of a broader restructuring of its operations. H.I.G. Capital obtained 350 branches across the UK and Ireland alongside several speciality online distributors that include The Underfloor Heating Store, Direct Heating Spares, PlumbNation, and National Shower Spares.

Travis Perkins’s strategies were to consolidate its offerings, streamline operational efficiencies, reduce duplication and complexity in its core markets, and, importantly, better manage exposure to broader business risk.

Appointment of Peter Page

Part of its rebuilding better approach saw the appointment of Peter Page as the new head of group security, a role that had already significantly shifted in line with emerging threats.

This has created the platform from which the new incumbent can build his multi-skilled and talented team to help protect the business from a myriad of security risks—from morphing fraud scams to modern-day slavery to organised criminals and terrorism.

This is on top of the everyday external and internal theft challenges, burglaries, total loss management, and compliance, and the safeguarding of thousands of frontline colleagues in the teeth of a global pandemic that has seen record incidents of violence and aggression targeted at staff.

Peter, who has a military background as a long-term army reservist with broad experience in the security industry in the UK and overseas, takes a disciplined approach and spent his first thirteen months in the role—he took over the post in January 2021—building and developing a team of experienced, like-minded, motivated self-starters.

“Part of the reason I was brought in was the long view of the strategic need of the business—what good looks like in terms of enterprise security risk management and our approach to it going forward,” said Peter, who began his retail career at Storehouse Group.

With a wider team of experts and investigators, each of the group’s business units has an overall security manager appointed to it who all report into Peter.

“I thrive on being able to chart our direction, and I expect the same of the team we have put together. We’ve been doing a lot of work around team building and are all people who have more than one skill set. I don’t micro-manage them, as they are given the freedom to do their job. I will set the overall strategy and they will set the strategy for their own teams,” explained Peter.

All are empowered to deliver as part of Peter’s hands-off nurturing approach. “I will set the strategy and boundaries and provide support, but I will not tell my team how to achieve it—that is up to them, where their expertise comes in,” said Peter.   

“I am a long-term advocate of lifelong learning, and my role is to support the team and help them to grow,” said Peter, whose professional accreditations, qualifications, and affiliations include Chartered Security Professional, Fellow of the Security Institute, Certified Protection Professional, Specialist Fellow of the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management, and member of the Business Continuity Institute.

“Micro-management is not good for any business and certainly not good for personal development,” he added.

New Security Structure

Under the new group structure, Peter and his team now oversee the enterprise security risk management strategy covering all elements of business exposure through a more linear operation that includes general and speciality TP Group businesses operating under autonomous managing directors. These include the following:

“Our role is to straddle the demands of the different businesses and identify synergies of operation. It used to be that the Travis Perkins security function reported to them, but it is now the other way ’round when it comes to security, which helps us to better target our resources.

“People won’t necessarily know where their security risks lie, but we look at all areas of vulnerability, including those that would previously have been out of scope. We use the enterprise security risk management approach that utilises the proactive ISO approach of ‘Plan, do, check, and act’ because you cannot manage your risks without measuring them in the first place.”

Middle East

Peter’s extensive experience is not confined to the UK. He spent more than fourteen years working in the Middle East with the separate retail franchise operations of Al Shaya and the Al Tayer Group operating across the Middle East and North Africa, from Kuwait to Dubai to Qatar.

Overseeing a wide risk portfolio including physical security, loss prevention, business continuity, risk management, and international standards as well as health and safety across the multiple territories, Peter explained, “This was a great experience for me. It was very challenging, but I learnt a lot about crime in what is a transient retail environment where till snatches and bulk thefts are unheard of, and you certainly can’t challenge a female suspect—it is a completely different environment and way of operating to that of the UK.”

His bosses during that time were not only captains of industry but members of the merchant classes and, in the latter years when he was managing a major conglomerate that included automotive and environmental businesses as well as retail, influential Government ministers.

“I came back to the UK in 2020 as it was the right time to do it. My daughter was starting university and my son his A levels. We’d always said that this was the right time to return to the UK,” said Peter.

Building Better

The future looks brighter for security across the business, with cost-effective investments in new technologies.

“Strategic investment in loss prevention technology does not in any way put law-abiding customers off—they will never notice it—but it will definitely impact those who may be in one of our yards at 2 a.m.”

He added, “Technology used well is enhancing the customer journey, especially as we look to a model of security by design in the build of new sites going forward.”

Collaboration

As well-equipped as a large business such as Travis Perkins is, it does not claim to hold all the answers, and Peter, through his multiple security affiliations, is a strong advocate for industry collaboration. He recently became the chairman of the ORIS DIY and Building Trade Loss Prevention Forum, a collective of heads of risk sharing security pain and gain across the construction sector as well as promoting best practice and targeted lobbying and opinion influencing.

One such example has been the launch of a consumer safety media campaign aimed at cutting off the demand for stolen boilers, a high-demand item particularly in times of record gas prices.

DIY stores are often targeted by burglars and ram raiders for high-value gas boilers that are then sold on the lucrative black market.

The issue behind the safety awareness campaign is that stolen boilers are often fitted by unqualified or rogue traders and the nature of their acquisition also means they are not registered with the GasSafe registration body that guarantees only safe and qualified engineers carry out the installation.

ORIS Forums has been pursuing this issue on behalf of its members for years and has previously discussed the issue with boiler manufacturers, GasSafe, and the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council (HHIC). It has now teamed up with the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) to try and snuff out the practice.

Peter said, “The public needs to understand the wider implications of buying a boiler from an unauthorised supplier and getting it fitted by a friend or unverified trader.

“We need to cut off the supply of illegal boilers at source by educating the public as to the dangers. Unregistered boilers, incorrectly fitted by an unauthorised supplier, can at worst be fatal and financially ruinous at best,” he added.

Apart from the obvious dangers as to provenance and the unregulated fitting (all gas boilers should be fitted by a GasSafe or equally accredited registered individual or body), there are legal and financial considerations for householders, including the fact that unregistered boilers, if proved to be the cause or contributor to a fire or explosion, invalidate household insurance claims.

Kevin Wellman, CEO of CIPHE said, “It’s simply not worth taking the risk on an unregistered tradesperson, with a dubiously sourced boiler. The money you save on a bargain installation could cost you your home, your health, or your life.” (See more of this story on ORIS Forums’ page 38.)

Carbon Impact

But day-to-day physical crime is only part of what Peter deals with. Security risk is an ever-changing entity, rather like a mythical hydra where removal of one head spawns multiple other threats. As alluded to in the introduction to this article, the construction industry’s carbon impact is possibly the most pressing challenge affecting the boards of every affiliated business and their supply chains—from house, road, and infrastructure builders to quarrying companies extracting the raw aggregate the industry depends upon.

All have explored alternative ways of working to reduce the 40 per cent level of all CO2 produced in the UK, and Travis Perkins has already established strong foundations on its environmental journey.

In November of last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who coined “Build Back Better” as one of his manifesto pledges, was shown around a Travis Perkins site in his Uxbridge constituency, where he climbed into the cab of a fully-electric, twenty-seven tonne CCF insulation lorry and heard how the parent business is starting to prepare for a time when his Government will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel LGVs and HGVs. 

Commenting upon the visit, Travis Perkins’s Chief Operating Officer Frank Elkins said, “As a ConstructZero Business Champion with ambitious carbon reduction targets, I explained the role we have in working with customers and suppliers, sharing data and ideas to make progress on the decarbonisation and modernisation of our industry.”

Also, in November of last year, the business announced that it has formally been accredited by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between not-for-profit charity CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, which has recognised Travis Perkins’s commitments to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent before 2035 from a 2020 base year.

The SBTi also accredited the Group’s plans to reduce its total scope of three emissions by 63 per cent within the same timeframe, meaning that the SBTi has determined that all targets are in line with a 1.5 degree Celsius trajectory, the temperature that global leaders are trying to get emissions down to in order to reduce the heating of the planet.

Travis Perkins has committed to investing in its buildings to continually improve energy efficiency, using low-carbon, renewable energy systems where possible, while also employing energy-saving solutions such as utilising LED lighting, solar panels, and electric vehicle charging points across the Group’s estate. Measures have also been put in place to optimise the Group’s 4,000-strong transport fleet by utilising fleet management systems, transitioning to alternative fuels, and adopting low-carbon technology.

The business will also work with suppliers and customers to reduce supply chain emissions, in particular in-use emissions from products sold and the embodied carbon in products, as part of the broader Scope 3 emissions commitment.

Alongside this SBTi accreditation, the Group also announced that it has moved to a 100 per cent renewable electricity tariff for all its UK-based operations. The tariff, supplied by Drax, will see all Travis Perkins businesses in the UK supplied with 100 per cent renewable source electricity across the total UK portfolio of almost 1,400 stores, branches, and offices nationwide.

The renewable sources used to generate this electricity would typically consist of a mixture of biomass, wind, and solar power. Over the four-year duration of the contract, this would save an estimated 54,600 tonnes of carbon compared to current levels—enough to power 80,000 homes.

CEO Nick Roberts said, “Achieving SBTi recognition for our emissions targets is an important step forwards as part of our broader sustainability plans. This adds great endorsement and credibility to the work we will lead with both suppliers and customers to decarbonise our industry. The measures we have put in place with regards to our fleet, the use of low-carbon technologies, and our estate are already having a tangible impact on our emissions, and I look forward to building on this positive momentum.”

Peter and his experienced team are plugged into this environmental strategy. “I have visibility of everything from security to environmental risks,” said Peter. “In my multi-skilled team, I have a former environmental consultant, which really helps our broader understanding of the issues.”

Modern Slavery

The construction industry, like that of the security supply chain, is vulnerable to infiltration by criminal gang masters as a result of casual cash-only working and loopholes in existing regulations, so it must have robust procedures in place to counter the scourge of modern-day slavery.

“My role in security is broad. With my prior experience dealing with bonded labour and overseas recruitment I am able to contribute to our approach to modern-day slavery,” said Peter.

Employing more than 16,000 people, the business is focused on a strategy of ensuring colleagues and workers within the supply chain are protected from any abuse of their human rights.

Travis Perkins’s modern slavery and human trafficking policy, approved by the Group Leadership Team, is the guiding strategy for Peter and his team. It details the commitments that all businesses in the Travis Perkins Group align with in order to prevent these risks from occurring, either in its own business and supply chains, or its suppliers. It has also shared best practices with selected customers and suppliers to support their own anti-slavery controls and to learn from and introduce training for all colleagues to help identify the risks and red flags of modern slavery. Again, this is an area of cross-industry collaboration that Peter and his team are strong advocates of.

“Build Back Better” may have been a slogan hijacked for political purposes, but it’s three-word alliterative appeal does have strong resonance in an industry undergoing such fundamental change. Peter and his new multi-skilled and experienced team are exemplars of new practices and ways of working to build confidence and alliances across the Group’s businesses. It’s early for them so far, but there is strong evidence already that they are cementing change in the very fabric of the security function—one brick at time.

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