Why the construction industry needs to take a lead on ESG

Steve Langton

Written by Steve Langton

Article - Industry

Historically the construction industry has been resistant to change. Whether it’s a lack of investment, shortage of skilled workers or productivity issues, the sector has been slow to adapt as old habits die hard. However, with environmental, social and corporate governance values, also known as ESG values, the construction industry has an opportunity to step up and be a leader for positive change. Changes to the cultural and regulatory landscape have accelerated the progress of the ESG agenda, but at Vision Arch we are firm believers that we have the power to make a positive impact that far exceeds those set out in law. 

What are ESG values? 

In its simplest form, ESG is a tool for evaluating companies on how far advanced they are with sustainability in its broadest sense covering environmental, social and governance factors. 

Environmental factors include the contribution a company makes to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, along with waste management and energy efficiency, themes pertinent within the construction sector. Social factors include human rights, labour standards in the supply chain as well as critical topics such as workplace health and safety, something our sector has championed for many years. The final component is governance, 
which refers to a set of rules or principles defining rights, responsibilities and expectations between different stakeholders in the governance of corporations to balance the expectations of employers and employees. 

Why does ESG matter in the construction sector? 

Environmental, social and governance considerations are no longer ‘nice to have’s’ but essential requirements for any firm operating in the construction industry. At Vision Arch, we have embedded consideration of ESG factors throughout all stages of our business practices and we are fundamentally committed to building a long-term ESG policy, to deliver a sustainable organisation that will grow, provide employment and opportunities for many years to come. But this isn’t the case for the whole sector and those who are slow to adopt ESG values into their business will soon start to see they fall behind. 

Given the nature of construction and development projects, it will come as no surprise that firms engage the “three pillars” of ESG to varying degrees. However, we are firmly of the view that we as a sector have a unique opportunity to take a leadership role by presenting a truly holistic approach to ESG, from carbon reduction to ethical employment practices and everything in between. 

Over recent decades, there has rightly been a significant focus on sustainability, achieved through a fully embedded circular economy approach - something that is easier for some projects than others. For us, this means that we commit to minimising waste and making the most of the resources we have at our disposal. But sustainability is only a single pillar of the ESG umbrella. At Vision Arch, we see the importance of ESG relating to many areas such as diversity, inclusion, honesty and integrity, at every level of our organisation. Only by taking a holistic approach can we truly stand by our ESG credentials. 

What is holding businesses back? 

As a whole, the construction sector is making positive strides to deliver on their ESG values and making them common practice, however, significant barriers remain. These are largely centred around three issues, namely cost, competitive advantage and the need to change a mindset. Each of these issues is surmountable, and firms who are slow to adapt are likely to have a shock as a proactive approach to ESG not only becomes the norm but becomes a prerequisite for procurement departments. 

What’s the secret to our success? 

At Vision Arch we’ve made sure that our ESG strategy forms the basis of our organisation. It isn’t a tick box exercise or a hobby project. Our commitment to environmental, social and governance is driven by our passion around our people, our communities and our impact on the planet.

If you'd like to read more about ESG and Vision Arch, please click here.