Environmental, Social and Governance: another way of looking at Sustainability.

Good design and sustainable design are closely linked. Even if we don’t work in the Sustainability group, I’m sure many of us are passionate about designing buildings as sustainably as possible. We might have a strong understanding of how to create good, sustainable designs, but it can be challenging to get this across to the strategic decision makers at the corporate level.

Perhaps we haven’t been talking about Sustainability in the right way? My background is not actually in engineering, but in economics. When I look at the decisions being made by investors, they don’t think in terms of ‘sustainability’, but rather ESG – or ‘environmental’, ‘social’ and ‘governance’. ‘Sustainability’ can mean just about anything under the broad rubric of “doing well by doing good”. ESG is now the preferred term, and this transition from ‘sustainability’ to ‘ESG’ is down to a better understanding of business practices. People now understand that we can get much more precise measurement of performance if we use these three ESG pillars. I believe that the we need to start bridging the language gap in order to engage more effectively with corporate strategists and key decision makers. There’s really no good reason for us not to be having these early conversations and helping shape the decisions about what sort of buildings, developments and estates get financial backing. We’re engineers; we know how things work; we know how to make things better! Our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) service is a way of offering something to those key decision makers. It’s a way of getting our foot in the door as early as possible.

Our approach.

Many of us have the knowledge to bridge the gap between what investors in the built environment are looking for in terms sustainability and what happens in reality when it comes to assets and operation. We already have a framework in place to help us with these conversations: the Five Capitals approach. I won’t go into much detail, as you can watch some introductory videos about the Five Capitals here. Here’s a really quick overview:

One of the most important things about the Five Capitals approach, is that it seeks to go beyond minimising risk or ticking boxes, and acts as a way of creating value. The quest for sustainability should be an opportunity for growth, rather than a hurdle to overcome. It seems obvious, but one of our key strengths (and where we can be of most value to the decision makers) is our deep knowledge of the built environment. We know how things work in detail – what’s possible – and we have a direct influence over the design and operational performance of assets. We should be at the table when strategic decisions are being made, because we can find the balance between what the stakeholders want and what is actually possible. We can do this in such a way that all concerned get something valuable out of the project: the financial backers, and the people who will be affected by their development.

What we can offer.

Corportate strategies We promote the idea of inclusive long-term value creation through a strategic approach going beyond the conventional financial metrics.

Materiality assessments We guide our clients through an impact evaluation exercise to gather insight on the relative importance of specific ESG issues associated with their operations and projects to help prioritise what matters the most.

ESG governance and reporting We help organisations get a clear understanding of the ESG expectations of their investors and other stakeholders, whilst also ensuring the communication of the most relevant information.

Social value We can help our clients understand where their business has the greatest influence to make a positive difference and create societal benefit. We have also embarked on a strategic partnership with social value pioneer Rob Wolfe, Managing Director of CHY Consultancy. This means we can combine our technical capabilities with CHY’s expertise for creating, delivering and measuring social value.

The team.

Diana Sanchez

James Ford

Yana Georgieva

Rob Wolfe