Originally posted on Bioregional website.
In the run up to the Ecobuild conference in March this year, Amie Shuttleworth sat with Julia Hawkins from Bioregional to discuss how Cundall is using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to inform our business purpose.
Why is it important that built environment companies address the SDGs?
It’s very much about what the whole world is trying to pull towards. That’s why we used the SDGs when we did our materiality review with Bioregional, to come up with a new strategy – we wanted to see what was most appropriate for us as a business to contribute to. It’s our duty as a purpose-driven business to be able to contribute where we can.
How did you start to incorporate the SDGS into your business?
We’ve been using the One Planet Living principles such a long time. People didn’t want to change. But the SDGs are brand new and this is very much what the world is saying we need to look at now. So we needed at least to do a review, to see if there was anything else the business should actively be looking at.
What kind of things did the SDG mapping exercise reveal?
It threw up some really interesting insights. For SDG6 for example on Clean Water and Sanitation, you might think that’s not really anything to do with buildings per se – but when you look into it practically it includes aspects such as installing water meters and water flow restrictors.
Also, when we did our first sustainability strategy five years ago, we didn’t really identify gender equality as a major issue. But the fact that there is a gender equality goal (SDG5) brought home that this is a massive element of sustainability. So now gender equality is part of our core impacts.
We’re also ensuring that we integrate the ethics and equity piece as a core part of our business mission. It’s about who we are and what we want to be actively consulting on.
What are your priorities now?
- We’ve decided to actively identify projects that have positive environmental and social impacts so we can put our services to the best use. It’s less about getting on board a project and then trying to make it better, but instead going for the ones that already have a strong sustainability vision and making them even better.
- We’re going to be updating our standard specifications integrating mandatory sustainability aspects into them, so that even if someone isn’t very engaged with sustainability, they will by default integrate things like responsible sourcing of key materials.
- We now employ quite a few embodied carbon specialists because our materiality review identified this as important. So when our structural engineers give different options to clients, they’re not just going to be giving quantities and costs of materials, they will also give embodied carbon information. It’ll be integrated into the decision-making process even if the client doesn’t ask for it.
I’m really proud that everyone’s been on board for that and moved it along quite quickly.
We want to be responsible engineers; this is a big part of who we are. We have engaged so many disciplines and got people quite excited. They are using their skills for good – which is why a lot of people join engineering in the first place.
What is your top tip to other built environment companies that might be struggling to get to grips with the SDGs – how do you recommend they get started?
Work out what’s your scope of influence as a business and map the SDGs over that. Don’t just take SDGs and show how your existing strategy contributes towards them. Use them as an opportunity to evolve your strategy, to help you understand where you’re already making most difference and where you could make more of a difference. Look for opportunities to redefine your business purpose. And make the SDGs tangible to what you do as a business – that helps you understand that this is not someone else’s problem.
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