The pursuit of resilience
As an expert in environmental engineering and management, JBA Consulting is leading the way in society’s pursuit for resilience
The year of 1995 marked the foundation of an environmental, engineering and risk consultancy helping to improve the environment, business and infrastructure, with a commitment to exceptional client service.
Since then, JBA Consulting (JBA) has grown to become one of Europe’s leading specialists in environmental engineering and management, with a strong track record of major studies for national governments and international bodies such as the World Bank and the European Commission. The company has established a reputation for itself within the fields of flood, coastal and environmental management, engineering appraisal, design and asset management, sustainability, climate resilience, and related software development and data provision.
The consultancy’s approach to its work is founded on sharing, innovation, and being different – an ethos known as ‘the JBA way’. “We’re motivated by our heritage, our people and our clients,” says Jeremy Benn, Executive Chairman, JBA group. “Our independence gives us our freedom, allowing us to make our own decisions and judge our own performance based on the things that matter most to us. These are the things that make us special, and the reasons that clients come back to us time and again.”
In particular, JBA has established itself as a trusted supplier on long-term strategic frameworks. “Through long-term partnerships, we’re better able to understand our clients’ objectives, and to align our own business so that those objectives can be mutually owned and met,” Jeremy explains. “One good example is our support for the UK Government’s £5.2bn capital programme of flood risk management works, which will better protect 336,000 homes and non-residential properties, to be delivered from 2021–2026, with an option to extend until 2030. This duration supports collaboration between our clients’ and our own delivery teams, and empowers us to drive innovation, improve efficiency and ensure continual improvement. It also enables us to support our clients’ wider strategic objectives, such as the drive to Net Zero.”
Underpinning JBA’s work is an emphasis on innovation for smarter delivery and problem solving. “Annually, we commit more than eight percent of our income to internal research and development programmes,” Jeremy tells us. “Last year, we continued delivering on our theme of increasing efficiencies and improving outcomes through modelling and risk assessment. We enhanced the functionality of our in-house software JFlow – now between three-and-a-half and five-times faster than other two-dimensional modelling software used in the sector.
“We also embarked upon Phase 5 of the development of our mobile data collection and management system, GISmapp,” he continues. “Capitalising on the increased adoption of tablet devices throughout the public and private sectors, GISmapp is a completely new type of product that allows for semi-connected or live on-site asset editing, with dynamic mapping at its core. Likewise, we’ve embraced CoastSnap, a new citizen science app to capture the details of our changing coastlines. That will serve as a complement to our work with vulnerable coastal communities to understand and adapt to coastal change.”
Over the last seven years, JBA has successfully grown its work with international bodies, national governments and their agencies, with a focus on climate adaptation and resilience. “We’ve delivered more than 35 international development projects in the last five years alone,” Jeremy notes. “It’s work that brings unique challenges, including assessing and quantifying risk within complex and often data poor systems, or identifying practical, cost effective and sustainable solutions within local capacity and resource constraints. There’s also the difficulty of communicating outputs to technical and non-technical stakeholders, and building local capacity to increase self-resilience.”
To meet these challenges, JBA developed its Decide-Design-Model. “We use the model as a route to identify and optimise structural and non-structural interventions to address floods and the impact of climate change across the world,” Jeremy outlines.
“It’s a framework that allows us to deploy our latest innovations in areas as diverse as probabilistic modelling, data processing and analytics, nature-based solutions, natural capital accounting, disaster risk financing, and communication and engagement.”
Last year, JBA was named ‘Medium Sized Consultancy of the Year’ at the 2021 Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) Awards. The accolade recognises the most successful consultancies delivering high-quality ecological services, and serving as an exemplar employer and advocate for the profession. JBA’s success is testament to the hard work of its teams and senior environmental leaders.
“We are engineers, data analysts, environmental consultants, scientists and designers, and much more besides,” Jeremy insists. “We work hard to ensure that everyone is valued, and is given the opportunity for progression and a rewarding and enduring career. To achieve this, we support life-long learning and the pursuit of knowledge and growth, valuing academic and vocational qualifications alike. Our learning programmes, schemes and frameworks, are recognised for their excellence and our investment in personal and company learning is unequalled.”
The company has maintained this commitment despite the difficulties of Covid-19. “Our staff attended 1980 training days and recorded nearly 15,000 continued professional development hours during 2021,” Jeremy remarks.
“We invested over £360,000 in the development of enhanced skills and knowledge, and ran a range of formal, scheduled, and technical courses, along with in-house business skills training. We currently have 90 staff working towards Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) professional membership – a significant increase on previous years. We also continued our delivery of external training, with 230 external delegates attending JBA Consulting courses across 29 days during the year, eight of which were virtual. It’s a challenge that’s given us significant insight into the opportunities arising from alternative modes of delivery, and we’re confident that they’ll form a key component of our training offering in the future.”
As is to be expected, JBA is setting an example with its own rigorous approach to sustainability. “Our actions are louder than our words, and everyone at JBA Consulting understands that,” Jeremy confirms. “We recognise that our social, economic and environmental responsibilities are integral to our long-term success, and to that of our clients and suppliers, our communities and the planet. Accordingly, we embed sustainability in everything we do.
“To minimise the environmental impact of our operations and activities, we’ve set ourselves a target of cutting emissions by 42 percent between 2020–2030, with a longer-term goal that must deliver at least a 90 percent reduction,” Jeremy goes on. “We’ve begun implementing early actions as a matter of course, purchasing electric vehicles for our pool car fleet, and implementing a salary sacrifice scheme to provide everyone at JBA Consulting with the opportunity to affordably convert their personal vehicles to electric. We also support the JBA Trust, an independent registered charity that promotes research and education in environmental risks. We provide annual funding of £150,000, on top of the 3145 hours of staff time contributed to the trust’s projects and activities last year. We also fund work and university placements, and we remain committed to helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by sharing our best practice and hosting company skills development seminars.”
Turning to the future, JBA anticipates a shift in the discussion and focus around climate change. “Where we once aimed to manage risks, we will now create resilience,” Jeremy concludes. “The responsibility for that lies across multiple agencies, working with residents, businesses, public and community organisations. For JBA, it means working in more integrated ways, and collaborating to create solutions that are bigger than the sum of their parts. Our vision is to support our clients in transforming their businesses, systems, assets or ways of working, and to help them recover more quickly if and when a shock occurs. Nobody is better placed to lead the way.”
Services: Environmental risk management