As part of Bechtel’s commitment to contribute 100 ideas to support the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we examine the benefits of ensuring inclusiveness and diversity of thought in host communities during project development.
Sustainable Development Goal #10:
Reduce inequality within and among countries
10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
Context and impact
Inclusion is at the heart of the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind.’ In a recent Inklusiiv blog, author Priyanka Banerjee discussed how diversity and inclusion (D&I) is linked to sustainability and how combined-focus initiatives can drive sustainable results within companies. In this blog, we further explore how D&I and sustainability are intertwined within the Engineering Procurement and Construction industry to support the successful design, planning, and construction of major projects globally.
“When we design and build a project, we are focusing on helping our customers create a lasting positive legacy that includes protecting the environment, creating economic growth and development, and partnering with communities1.
At any given time, Bechtel is a partner on hundreds of projects worldwide from initial planning and investment through start-up and operations to work with our customers to change the world for the better. Our projects are often industry firsts and sometimes operate in challenging environments overcome by post-conflict issues, poverty, inequality, or lack of access to productive assets and opportunities, including natural ecosystems. Each project is unique, and successful execution depends on our team bringing a diverse set of ideas, experiences, and perspectives to the table to customize solutions for tough problems, identify opportunities for growth, and unleash new capabilities that make a positive difference to our customers, our communities, and our world.
Bechtel’s four pillars of sustainability drive our focus for sustainable outcomes in our work:
- Protect people and the environment
- Partner with communities and society
- Promote economic development
- Pioneer through innovation
Sustainability is not the exclusive responsibility of a single person or function at Bechtel. Whether team members are located in the home office, on site with the construction delivery team, or as part of our supply chain, we consider sustainability to be part of everyone’s responsibilities. This approach brings unique viewpoints together, thereby enabling continuous improvement throughout project lifecycles.
Protect people and the environment
Approximately 40.3 million people worldwide are affected by human trafficking, and just under 25 million of those affected are subjected to forced labor2.
While companies like Bechtel collaborate with their customers to solve problems daily, EPC companies are also working with one another to address issues that are important to our industry and communities, such as human trafficking and forced labor.
Governments have the primary responsibility to protect human rights, however businesses can also play a positive role. Recognizing that this would be a problem best tackled from diverse perspectives and through strength in numbers, a coalition of leading engineering and construction companies founded Building Responsibly, an organization dedicated to improving worker welfare. Through this collective and the input of organizations, such as human rights NGOs and informal networks of community citizens, a set of guiding principles and guidance notes were developed to serve as the global standard on worker welfare for the engineering and construction industry.
Promote economic development
Sustained and inclusive economic growth can drive progress, create decent jobs for all, and improve living standards3.
Economic development has the potential to have a transformational impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. In the context of major projects, the strategy for economic development needs to go beyond buying locally and employing a local workforce. Establishing partnership networks with the companies, governments, schools/universities, and training institutions where we work and agreeing on gaps, goals, and targets is the most effective way to manage expectations and stimulate long-term economic development. This collaborative delivery approach is not new to large-scale project delivery.
In Gabon, for example, we developed a comprehensive national infrastructure plan to diversify the economy, advance the skills of the Gabonese people, and promote long-term sustainable growth. The plan went beyond building highways and bridges: it connected people and communities; expanded access to clean water, jobs, reliable power, and health services; and facilitated regional trade and commerce. The project brought together experts from some of the world’s most celebrated transport, energy, social, and urban projects to work with the Gabon Government and communities and help turn Le Gabon Emergent into a reality.
The Jubail Industrial City project has been underway for more than 40 years and today is continuing to grow one of the largest and most prosperous industrial cities in the world. It is also the inspiration for NEOM, with its bold vision to become one of the largest, most sophisticated and advanced infrastructure projects ever undertaken globally.
Partner with communities and society
“Developing an honest, transparent dialogue and understanding perspectives, cultures, and goals are important steps for meaningful engagement that can lead to positive outcomes, including agreements that help communities manage the impacts and receive the benefits associated with [project development]4.”
Inclusive, meaningful engagement is critical to building lasting and impactful projects and to shaping and influencing decision-making throughout the project lifecycle. When applied with a dedicated and continuous process, collective thinking has proven to allow the project to capture ideas, address issues and develop mutual benefits that are transparent, measurable, and meaningful.
Each step throughout the project lifecycle must be more than just part of the end goal, but rather a piece of the community’s welfare and future development. The value of deep integration is in the engagement and relationship-building with impacted communities. For example, throughout the project lifecycle, the Crossrail team worked hard to build and maintain constructive relationships with those in the surrounding community. The overarching goal was to not only complete the project on budget and schedule, but also build enduring relationships during construction that would continue into the operational phase.
Similarly, in Australia during the construction of the Curtis Island LNG projects, the scale and duration of the work meant the project team could not simply engage with the residents when issues and grievances occurred, and then disengage. Because the projects’ delivery was directly linked to its effect on the local community, the residents were empowered to become promoters and advocates for successful completion of the project.
Pioneer through innovation
“Some people are inherently more creative, but that does not mean creativity cannot be developed and strengthened in everyone.5”
Sustainability, D&I, and innovation creates a virtuous cycle that is interlinked by continuous improvement and sharing of lessons learned. As we move into an increasingly digital future, diverse thought leadership and approaches to communications will be key to keeping people connected and educated, regardless of their language, culture, or location.
Indigenous Peoples have a strong socio-economic and spiritual connection to local lands and ecosystems for culture, identity, and traditional knowledge. Throughout the construction of the Amrun Project, it was important to acknowledge and recognize these connections and to keep local First Nations people and Traditional Custodians informed and manage expectations around what the mine would mean for the area. Recognizing the storytelling culture of Elder knowledge sharing, new technology was combined with traditional community engagement activities to enable the community to visualize the future and understand what changes to expect as the project progressed. Through this engagement, the project team also benefited from gaining a greater understanding of the land and local environment to support project planning and execution.
There are many examples of the symbiotic relationship between D&I and sustainability. From our home offices to project locations in communities and the supply chain network around the world, global companies are intrinsically linked to the people they employ and places in which they operate. Through this presence, we have an opportunity to lead the way for a more inclusive, equitable process of engagement, where multiple voices from within our internal and external environments work in collaboration to shape the future, and our world together.
1 Brendan Bechtel, Chief Executive Officer, Bechtel Corporation