This article was originally published in The Corporate Citizen magazine, a publication of Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship.
In the past few years, global efforts such as the Paris Agreement and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have demonstrated the tremendous progress that can be achieved through collective action.
The unprecedented focus from both the public and private sector on the health of our planet has signaled that efforts to limit environmental impacts can no longer be considered “above and beyond” the normal scope of a company’s operations, but rather serve as investments for our global community’s overall health and future growth in a responsible manner.
Now, companies are working to adopt this new mindset by drawing on their unique skills and resources to set and meet ambitious targets for the good of the planet. Here, two leading companies are taking what they've learned from each having more than a century of experience to shape and drive the future of sustainability.
Bechtel’s work on the Crossrail project, London’s high-capacity railway, has the potential to offset 300 million vehicle-miles each year. Pictured here, an aerial view of Woolwich station. © Crossrail Ltd
Crossrail was recognized as the first infrastructure project in the United Kingdom to adopt strict emissions controls across all of its work sites. Pictured here, platform construction at Liverpool Street station. © Crossrail Ltd
To drive this effort, Bechtel has launched a suite of 2030 enterprise-wide goals and targets. Created in support of the SDGs, the targets seek to limit the company’s own impacts while spurring innovation that will benefit the entire global engineering and construction industry. Specifically, Bechtel plans to:
- contribute 100 ideas to help achieve the SDGs;
- improve the resilience of 5,000,000 people to natural hazards;
- use sustainable material alternatives to reduce the environmental footprint on 100 percent of its key projects and non-project facilities; and
- engage 100 percent of its key suppliers to promote sustainability in the delivery of materials and/or services, and prevent modern-day slavery, including within their own supply chains.
“We believe the next 100 years will be defined by sustainability and innovation,” said Nguyen. “As we become focused on meeting our 2030 goals and targets, we are not only building a better society, but also building a better Bechtel for decades to come.”
Bechtel’s path to meeting these goals will be built on in-depth experience gained from decades of delivering extraordinary projects in some of the toughest, most complex places on the planet.
Having delivered more than 300 major subway and rail projects, Bechtel is at the forefront of building some of the largest and most sustainable rail systems in the world today. For example, in Saudi Arabia, Bechtel is developing a brand new metro system in Riyadh, the capital of the kingdom, in which two new rail lines will have solar-powered depots and landscaping maintained with municipal wastewater—AND will offer 6.5 million residents a realistic alternative to driving.
Bechtel’s work on the Crossrail project, London’s high-capacity railway, has the potential to offset 300 million vehicle-miles each year, and also boasts energy-efficient features such as lighter passenger cars and smart controls for lighting, heating, and air conditioning, which will reduce the overall carbon emissions over the life of the transportation system’s operations. Crossrail was also recognized as the first infrastructure project in the United Kingdom to adopt strict emissions controls across all of its work sites.
In the remote mountains of Peru, the company’s environmental management system for one of the largest copper mine projects in the world resulted in zero environmental impacts during construction. And to help the communities manage the economic effects of transitioning from one project phase to the next, Bechtel and its partners conducted more than 24,000 hours of training through a series of workshops for indigenous entrepreneurs—including tax preparation—and provided new business opportunities such as in the transportation and hotel management sectors.
Like many forward-thinking businesses, Bechtel doesn’t consider the environmental, social, and governance aspects of its work merely as ancillary to the financial bottom line, but rather as key aspects of its work relating to the rigors and demands of its operating context and an investment in efficiency and competitiveness. For example, the company understands that reduced emissions are of paramount concern to its stake-holders—from its customers to the many governments with which it operates. To deliver on what is expected to be an ever-increasing demand for cleaner energy, Bechtel has developed two patent-pending innovations that use steam produced by exhaust heat to efficiently remove carbon emitted from gas-fired power plants. Not only can these patent-pending technologies reduce the power lost in capturing carbon by almost 65 percent, they also could lower overall capital cost by more than 30 percent.
Bechtel is also putting a stake in the ground to take on a global issue: building community resilience. From Ethiopia to the Philippines, Bechtel’s social impact teams are partnering with different organizations to decontaminate local water systems, build natural defenses against future typhoons, and strengthen local capacities by transferring know-how and appropriate technologies.
“Extreme weather and natural disasters can have lasting impacts on vulnerable communities,” said Sara Schmieg, a senior environmental engineer at Bechtel. “Through our community projects, we are learning how building for resiliency and longevity can be applied on Bechtel’s bigger projects to help communities plan for the future and improve sustainability.”
Through their 2030 goals and targets, which integrate core business principles and practices with social purpose and impact, Bechtel is creating a virtuous cycle of learning which will enable the company to deliver the next century of sustainable development.