Today, Kier is launching its brand new sustainability framework Building for a Sustainable World. Here, Jo Gilroy our Group head of sustainability & environment, discusses the new framework and why it’s now time to change the language around sustainability.

“At Kier, we have a strong history of sustainable achievements. Since 2014, we have reduced our carbon intensity footprint by 54% and since 2015, we have reduced our construction waste footprint by 35%. We are proud of what we have achieved so far, however, we recognise that now is the time for deeper action.

This year, we have seen the impact of our changing environment, with devastating wildfires across the world and a global pandemic which has impacted the lives of us all. The environmental changes our world is seeing are significantly impacting human health and wellbeing – now is the time for us all to accelerate sustainable change.

This is not only a personal change, but it is also one that all corporations – whatever size, should be taking seriously. It is not about setting unrealistic targets that will never be met, rather it is about setting achievable targets and trying to beat them. Every change made will be a positive change for our world.

The language around sustainability needs to be altered. It’s time to move out of the ‘green’ space, where intentions can be superficial and senior leadership teams not always fully engaged. This can lead to credible solutions becoming diluted by greenwashing activities.

Instead, we need to move to the ‘mindset’ space. Where sustainability is fully integrated into the commercial language of business and where business leaders comprehensively understand their responsibility to run operations in a way that keeps the three pillars of sustainability (environment, social and economic) in balance. This will positively impact operations and end in meaningful change being driven through core business decisions.

Our new framework sets a common direction of travel for the whole Group and seeks to follow the same ethos established by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, taking a holistic approach to the environmental and social areas of pressing concern. We understand that our four core businesses – Construction, Highways, Infrastructure and Utilities, operate in vastly different markets and so, each business will have its own sustainability strategy that will help achieve the goals of the Group framework.

We have focused our new culture and approach to sustainability with ‘mindset’ at its heart. Our sustainability mindset will seek to create resilient, purpose-driven business by safeguarding three vital features no business can operate successfully without:

  • A resilient environment;
  • A resilient community, which includes our workforce, suppliers and customers, and;
  • Resilient profits.

All of these features are equally weighted in importance, and all are vital to achieving true sustainable progress at Kier. Our framework focuses on environmental and social sustainability, with our culture of Performance Excellence focusing on economic sustainability.

Within our framework there are ten pillars of action, five environmental and five social and they focus on where Kier can have the greatest impact through our operations.

Our environmental actions are:

  • Pollution prevention – we will prevent pollution from all operations within our control
  • Responsible sourcing – we will always take a life cycle approach to the sourcing of material, products & services
  • Carbon impact – We will achieve Net Zero carbon across our own operations and supply chain by 2045
  • Zero waste – We will produce no avoidable waste by 2035 and our operations will be single-use plastic free by 2030
  • Protection of habitats and natural resources – Our operations will help to maintain a healthy environment for future generations

Our social actions are:

  • Supply chain and human rights – we will work with the best qualified supply network partners, setting standards for ethical business and responsible sourcing, to deliver sustainable projects and services
  • Workforce well-being and retention – We want to make Kier a great place to work, where all our employees feel included, supported to perform and can develop professionally
  • Social value – We will support communities by providing jobs, interacting with schools, supporting wellbeing, giving to charities and volunteering
  • Stakeholder engagement – We will engage with out stakeholders to understand the issues most material to them and address their priorities in our decision making and add value applying ethical business practice and risk management
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Respect – Develop a diverse culture within Kier, where everyone does the right thing, takes personal responsibility for their actions and treats others with respect and fairness

To ensure our business leadership is fully engaged, our framework is governed and lead through our Sustainability Leadership Forums. These forums have been established at the Group level and for each of our four core business streams. The forums are led by senior leadership champions and attended by cross functional team members, including commercial, business development, operational and environmental teams.

As we action our framework, and as technology evolves and the sustainability agenda develops, we will continue to review, refine and develop our framework through continuous improvement. We invite all Kier customers and suppliers to actively engage with our framework and Sustainability Leadership Forums. Only by taking a transparent, collaborative and balanced approach to sustainable development can we build a sustainable future.”

To read the Building for a Sustainable World, visit: https://www.kier.co.uk/media/6079/building-for-a-sustainable-world-october-2020.pdf