The aim is to advance sustainability initiatives that deliver positive impact both at AECOM and in communities around the world
In time for World Environment Day on Sunday 5 June, globally trusted infrastructure consulting firm AECOM has announced the next phase of Sustainable Legacies, its industry-leading environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategy launched a year ago. The aim is to advance sustainability initiatives that deliver positive impact both at AECOM and in communities around the world.
The strategy integrates four key pillars that embed sustainable development and resilience across the company’s work, improve social outcomes for communities, achieve net-zero carbon emissions, and enhance its governance. Included in the updated strategy are more ambitious net zero targets that are among the first in the world to be approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.
“As a trusted partner to our clients, our commitment to ESG is not only core to what we do, it also plays a large role in leading our industry towards a more sustainable and equitable future,” says Elisabeth Nortje, Associate Director – Environment, Africa.
Following the one-year anniversary of the launch of its Sustainable Legacies strategy, AECOM has celebrated numerous accomplishments that reflect strong progress to date on its ESG initiatives, including:
- Achieved operational net zero in its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions for fiscal 2021, including the use of 100% renewable electricity usage in North American offices, with plans to scale further.
- Implemented the company’s Travel with Purpose programme to maintain substantial business travel reduction.
- Initiated a robust supplier outreach programme to gain insights into key partners’ ESG programmes and evaluate opportunities to drive sustainability improvements throughout the company’s value chain.
- Initiated work on the company’s own in-house nature-based solution projects for carbon sequestration.
- Advanced ScopeX™ initiatives to accelerate the company’s ESG offering for clients and to reduce embodied carbon in infrastructure design and construction.
- Published the company’s global ESG report in November 2021 that incorporated its initial disclosures aligned with the TCFD and SASB framework.
- Implemented an ESG risk framework to ensure work aligns with the company’s Sustainable Legacies strategy, which is being continuously updated to ensure full alignment with climate science, particularly following COP26 last year.
ESG considerations are particularly important due to the long-term nature of infrastructure investments. Success today is much more than delivering on time and on budget, as it is also about responding to clients’ needs and embedding considerations of social equity, economic justice, environmental sustainability, and resilience into any work undertaken to achieve the best outcomes for communities and the planet.
Over 1 500 of AECOM’s clients and 800 cities globally have already set net-zero targets, while others are looking at strengthening the resiliency of communities to adapt to climate change, or rethinking master planning to advance community equity and economic prosperity. Another focus is advancing projects, initiatives, and policies that uplift people and communities. This might be improved health outcomes for a community because of clean water infrastructure or reduced air pollution due to transport electrification.
The AECOM environmental team in Africa consists of a group of dedicated environmental scientists, social scientists and climate-change advisors, and is well placed to respond to the ESG needs of its clients. The team provides services to both internal and external clients, addressing the need for environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) to meet international funder requirements; waste, water, and air emissions licences; compliance monitoring and auditing; sustainability and climate change assessments; and stakeholder engagement, integrated environmental planning and environmental advisory services throughout South Africa, Africa, and the Middle East.
“We are supported by the global business in being able to offer expertise that we have attained on international projects and, where necessary, bringing in subject matter experts from other offices to collaborate on specific projects,” says Isak Malherbe, Associate Director, Surface Water Management, Africa, who is based in Cape Town.
A particular focus for the company has been water resource projects in Africa, and in countries such as Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, where it is conducting water-yield studies for a range of dam and irrigation projects. A close interface with the civil infrastructure side of the business gives the water resources team the capability to run with projects from inception to implementation and even long-term monitoring. “Essentially we are able to provide a seamless, end-to-end solution for our clients,” concludes Jonathan Schroder, Water Resources Technical Lead for Africa at AECOM.
Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and held annually since 1974, World Environment Day has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet.