By Amie Shuttleworth

With the release of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in January 2016, and the marking of the fifth anniversary of Cundall’s Sustainability Road Map, we, have been conducting a review of our long-term sustainability goals.

Many businesses are grappling with making these global goals appropriate to their business so I thought I would share Cundall’s experience to provide inspiration to those who are starting out on this process.

Materiality

Doing a ‘Materiality’ review is an exercise in stakeholder engagement designed to gather insight on the relative importance of specific environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, so you can make sure as a business you are concentrating your efforts in the areas which have maximum impact.

First off, we decided to identify what really is important to our business and our clients.

We did this in the following ways:

  1. We conducted workshops with over 80% of our staff to get their views on what had been successful and what improvements could be made. This ensured that everyone had their say – face to face and in a safe environment.
  2. We reviewed our progress against our 2012 targets, creating a quantitative report.
  3. We surveyed our key clients. This produced some very insightful results including their view on the direction of the industry and what they expect businesses like ours to provide in the future.
  4. We looked at what our peers were doing – what were their targets? What did they think their impacts where?
  5. We reviewed the SDGs and mapped our business impact against them.

We then conducted a materiality workshop where we reviewed all the above and set about prioritising by looking at the impact that Cundall has currently and what we could have in the future.

The group of people that took part in the workshop were key decision makers within the business and  some of our future leaders (who have been identified through our high potential programme, ASPIRE). We want this strategy to be future proofed, and stand the test of time – so we need to make sure those that will lead our business in the future, are part of its creation. Generating ownership, responsibility, and accountability, but ultimately, ensuring we have a culture where sustainability is part of business as usual.

Sustainable Development Goals

But how did we review the SDGs? It can feel quite daunting to scale something global to a business level , for example: Goal #1 No Poverty. How can we, as engineers and consultants within the built environment, influence this?

We implemented what we now call the Cundall Sustainability Aspect (CSA), which we created to adapt these to our business. We then mapped the One Planet Living principles and Sustainable Development Goals against them. This makes it very easy to see how the Cundall Sustainability Aspects and Sustainable Development Goals relate and influence each other.

Next, using the data from the materiality review, we conducted an impact matrix in four key areas:

  1. Stakeholder’s view
  2. Cundall current impact
  3. Cundall importance
  4. Cundall potential impact

We accompanied these scores with qualitative justification, so the scoring can easily be traced back and understood by anyone in our business. Below is a snapshot of our CSA ‘Health, Happiness and Wellbeing’

Cundall Sustainability Aspects- Cropped.jpg

Following this we created a heat map, with the x-axis representing the importance to Cundall and y-axis the importance to stakeholders. Size denotes the impact that we as a business have on that aspect. What this enables the leaders of the business to see is what is important now, and what should be important for our business in the future. This enables informed and easy decision making.

Heat map.jpgHeat map key

Figure 1: Heatmap and Key

Lessons Learned

It took us a few attempts to get our strategy of how to rank our impacts, at first we tried to rush it to meet company deadlines. However, this is not something you can rush, it needs time to consider and background research to be conducted to ensure that its fit for your business and sector. This is something that should guide your strategy for the next few decades, so you want to get it right!

I also advise using the matrix mapping, it enabled us to sift through something that from the outset seems very complex, and identify what and why things are important to us as a business. We want to ensure that what we are doing as a business has maximum impact, and we are certain that this process will enable us to do just that.

Next steps

We have drafted our report on what are the sustainability aspects most important to our business, and what the most efficient and effective governance structure is to facilitate the implementation of integrating these into our four areas of impact: Our Workplaces, Our Projects, Industry Leadership and Our Homes and Communities.

My next blog will update you on the progress of this, and any lessons I can share with you along the journey.

If you would like any tips or further lessons learned, please do feel free to contact your local Cundall contact.

****Correction****

We originally stated in this blog post that the SDGs are founded upon the 10 One Planet Living Principles. This is not actually this case, please refer to this page of the UKSSD which explains the origins of the goals.

Bioregional played an active role in inter-governmental negotiations at the United Nations about what sustainable development is and how it should be implemented across the planet which led to the SDGs. In particular, it worked with international partners and governments to make sure the critical issue of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) was properly recognised in the SDGs based on practical experience from use of the One Planet Living framework. Bioregional succeeded – one of the goals (Goal 12) is devoted to SCP, while several others relate to it.

Many thanks to Bioregional for the clarification.

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Amie Shuttleworth, Sustainable Cundall, Sustainable strategy and governance

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