Delivering ESG “everyday, everywhere, for everyone”

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Panellists at the "ESG: Creating social and community value and embracing a circular economy" at FIDIC's Global Infrastructure Conference in Geneva.

Global infrastructure conference shines a light on creating social and community value and embracing a circular economy.

The importance of a focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) to the construction sector has been highlighted at the FIDIC Global Infrastructure Conference in Geneva.

In a session entitled ESG – Creating social and community value and embracing a circular economy, speakers made the point that delivery social and community value should be central to everything that the engineering and construction industry does.

Speakers discussed making a difference for people and reviewed the current industry landscape, including procurement trends, government and client drivers and examined their importance for delivering social and community value, while delivering sustainable solutions.

Opening the session, Michael Carragher, president and CEO of US-based construction consultancy VHB, said: “What we do every day has a deep impact on people and we need to find the best way of communicating that and showing how we make people’s lives better.” ESG should be central to the industry’s way of working, said Carragher because “we deliver it everyday, everywhere, for everyone,” he said.

Benoît Clocheret, president of European consultancy association EFCA, agreed with Carragher’s points but said that it was not automatic that firms focused on ESG, even though it was central to what they do. It would take a real effort on behalf of the industry’s leaders to make this happen and also to highlight it to a wider audience, Clocheret said.

Marloes Fischer, managing director of Madaster Services Switzerland, said that the industry was facing a massive challenge in addressing sustainability and that more and more going forward the financial sector would be taking a close look at the projects it funds to ensure that these were truly sustainable and compliant with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Robert Spencer, global lead for ESG advisory at AECOM, said that a commitment to the circular economy needed to be linked to investment in digital and technology as this was crucial in ensuring that existing facilities and infrastructure were able to be identified for upgrade in a timely and effective way. “We need good data and good interaction with it and engineers were crucial in making that happen, Spencer said.

The increasing focus on ESG would change the way that companies worked as well changing how they described what they do, said Andrea Galli, president of USIC, the Swiss Association of Consulting Engineers. “We have to change the way we do business as a result, but organisations also need to be supported in dealing with new regulations and standards especially in the area of ESG. I’m confident that they will adapt and rise to the challenge” he said.

Magnus Lincoln Quarshie, chief executive officer of Delin Consult, agreed and highlighted that there was a communications challenge for engineers in particular to highlight ESG issues and the positive role played by the construction sector in delivering community vale. Quarshie said that it didn’t come naturally to the industry, but firms needed to get better at it and quickly.