How AECOM embedded environmental, social and governance (ESG)

On 4 April, AECOM and their client Waka Kotahi are holding a free webinar for ACE members on ESG (environmental, social, and governance). We spoke with AECOM Associate Director - Practice Lead Sustainability and Resilience, Anthony Hume, about how AECOM embedded ESG into the business to deliver meaningful and impactful solutions.

What’s ESG and what does it mean in the context of professional services consulting?

Environmental, social and governance - or ESG for short – is how we consider and add value to environmental, social and governance outcomes through how we operate as businesses, and through the projects we deliver.

At AECOM we have four pillars in our ESG Strategy:

  1. Embedding sustainable development and resilience across our work
  2. Improving social outcomes
  3. Achieving net zero
  4. Enhancing governance.

These pillars guide our projects and ensure the work we do in partnership with our clients leaves a positive, lasting impact on communities and our planet.

Our ESG advisory team supports clients by assessing the environmental and social risks facing their organisations, and developing strategies and actions to address them. We offer business-case-level advice to problem-solve and prioritise ESG outcomes.

The advisory service is backed by the technical services across AECOM to ensure the ESG outcomes are delivered into projects.

Why is ESG important/what are the drivers?

We are experiencing the effects of a changing climate across Aotearoa New Zealand and globally. Alongside this, many of our communities face challenging inequities heightened by the impact of climate change. A commitment to ESG principles and delivery of embedded ESG enables organisations to deepen their understanding of how they operate amongst their local, national and international community and create positive outcomes in these communities.

This understanding and collaboration are essential in helping our communities thrive, building their resilience to climate change and reaching our emissions reduction targets.

What’s the value for firms to get on board with embedding ESG?

There is increasing awareness of how businesses and organisations are committing to achieving positive environmental and social outcomes, and adversely, there is also increasing awareness being placed on the negative impacts of businesses and organisations' activities.

This awareness is coming from customers, shareholders and the wider public and is changing and shaping how we operate and deliver work. Through embedding ESG into our business operations and into our projects, we deliver meaningful and impactful solutions that not only meet the needs of our clients but have positive, lasting impacts that enhance our communities, reduce emissions and support resilience.

Examples where AECOM has focused on ESG outcomes through technical or advisory services:

The Project Emissions Estimation Tool

The Project Emissions Estimation Tool is a whole-of-life greenhouse gas emissions tool reporting on early infrastructure emissions.

Developed for Waka Kotahi, the tool provides users with an easy way for estimating emissions early in the project so that councils and organisations can understand their emission impacts and consider alternatives.

Wellington City Community Carbon Footprint

We’ve been working with Wellington City Council to calculate and report on the city’s community carbon footprint.

Part of the Council’s Te Atakura - First to Zero Climate Action Plan, the emissions footprint gives the council information to support informed decision-making, empowering stakeholders and the wider community to reduce the impact on global climate change.

Through visual aids, and expert advice and input, we’ve helped the council to ensure all stakeholders including councillors, the media and the public have a deep understanding of the city’s carbon footprint.

University of Canterbury Infrastructure Climate Change Risk Assessment

We’re currently working with the University of Canterbury to produce a climate change risk assessment on its assets, services and operations to understand climate change-related risks and opportunities.

We’re engaging with students and a mana whenua representative to understand important perspectives of risks and opportunities for the university. This work is integral to ensuring the future service provision of the university through enhancing its resilience to climate change, and ensuring it is positioned well in the transition to net zero.

If you were to challenge the industry to do one thing differently in relation to ESG, what would it be?

Be brave. Firstly, it is paramount that businesses and organisations implement a strategy to guide their efforts to achieve ESG outcomes. Creating a successful ESG strategy rests on really listening to key stakeholders and identifying what they ultimately want to achieve, and then aligning their responses with the longer-term overall business objectives. These facets are drawn from an ESG materiality assessment where you understand the ESG issues most important to your business. Conclusions drawn from the materiality assessment then shape disclosures, including climate-related disclosures, which inform the development of your comprehensive ESG strategy.

Making a commitment is the first step. The perhaps more difficult part is changing your business practice and services to embed ESG, for example focusing on zero or low emissions options, resource efficiency and circular economy principles, or community input. There is no final destination or “yes or no” answer to what ESG looks like, it is a journey that will continue to shape and grow. With the complexity of the challenges we currently face, the collective efforts of organisations, businesses and sectors will bring substantial positive outcomes for everyone.

To secure your place, register for the webinar.