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Bechtel’s Impact Report

What’s next for Bechtel’s sustainability

  • By
    portrait of Tam Nguyen
    Tam Nguyen, General Manager,
  • 18 April 2017

Global stressors – from water scarcity to modern-day slavery – are forcing companies to fundamentally rethink and reinvent business models and practices to support a more secure, sustainable future. With a track record of building more than 25,000 projects across 160 countries on all seven continents over the past 119 years, looking ahead to the future, Bechtel is uniquely positioned to transform how the engineering and construction industries design, build and operate mega-projects around the world.

As we look to the next 100 years, we see a century defined by sustainability. The truth is that we do not have a choice but to emphasize this core issue in every aspect of our work given the ever-increasing number of challenges we are all facing around the world. But the key question is how to turn our aspirations into reality? 

Building a more sustainable future means having a relentless commitment to innovation. By changing the way in which we design, source and build, we can conserve natural resources more efficiently; generate more valuable social and economic opportunities for people, businesses and societies; and deliver greater cost benefits for our customers. This last point is worth highlighting given that many people wrongfully assume that sustainability increases costs. Actually, quite the opposite is true. For example, Bechtel currently has a patent pending for the efficient removal of carbon emitted from gas-fired power plants. Its two technological innovations reduce the power lost in capturing carbon by almost 65 percent, while also lowering overall capital cost by more than 30 percent.

While Bechtel has deployed practices to protect the environment, start small businesses, and empower local communities for decades, we wanted to create specific goals that we could measure, and to which we could contribute. The following goals transition Bechtel from a two and half year strategy to integrate sustainability more comprehensively within the company. They were established around four areas where the company’s experience, technologies, relationships, and core competencies can make a sizable impact: support global goals around energy, infrastructure, water, and worker welfare; advance sustainability in project development and delivery; strengthen the resilience of communities; and leverage supplier engagements to further catalyse sustainable opportunities.

As corresponding targets, by 2030 Bechtel commits to:

  • Contribute 100 ideas to help achieve the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Improve the resilience of five million people to natural hazards through our voluntary initiatives.
  • Use sustainable alternatives to reduce our environmental footprint on 100 percent of our key projects and non-project facilities.
  • Engage 100 percent of our key suppliers to promote sustainability in the delivery of materials and services, and prevent modern-day slavery, including within their own supply chains.

The goals and targets build upon what we have already achieved on a massive scale. For instance, in October 2016, we delivered the last of three liquefied natural gas complexes on Curtis Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia to meet the growing global demand for low carbon fuels. The construction was part of the largest private capital investment in Australia’s history. At one of the facilities, we developed an advanced wastewater treatment plant that removed more than 95 percent of nitrogen and phosphorous from sanitary wastewater. At another facility, we maximized recycling efforts to reuse nearly 90 percent of all the construction materials.

Bechtel has released three annual Sustainability Reports, which measure the company’s sustainability achievements and successes globally. The fourth report, to be released in June 2017, will start measuring the implementation progress of Bechtel’s 2030 goals and targets. 

Like safety in our industry, we believe everyone has a role to play in promoting sustainability whether on a project site or office. These goals and targets provide direction and help create opportunities for our Bechtel colleagues to pursue new ideas and collectively make a more significant global impact.

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