Sustainability by design: A&E challenges for success

Deltek’s Neil Davidson says that societal impact matters now more than ever and architecture and engineering (A&E) firms are no exception.

Societal impact matters now more than ever, says Neil Davidson.

Businesses today are held to high standards. To succeed, they need more than great branding and a top product or service. Societal impact matters now more than ever and architecture and engineering (A&E) firms are no exception.

According to Deltek’s 2022 Clarity: Architecture and Engineering Study, 79% of UK firms say that having a formal Corporate Social Responsibility policy is crucial to remaining competitive and 45% say there is now a heightened awareness of the topic across the industry. 

Several local UK governments have announced a climate emergency and are committed to investing in buildings with zero carbon emissions by 2030 placing increasing pressure on contractors. Moreover, demonstrating adequate sustainability credentials which comply with these aims is still an industry-wide challenge that will get harder in the year ahead.

A&E companies must be empowered to overcome sustainability challenges to ensure future success. 

Challenges and drivers

With the A&E sector currently contributing an estimated 39% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the World Green Building Council, revolutionising the industry for the better could be hugely beneficial for the planet as a whole. Even the smallest changes could make a sizeable impact. 

Progress is being made. The A&E sector is gradually becoming more sustainable, despite conflicting goals and complex challenges. Firms battle to control costs while maintaining efficiency, and to reduce energy costs while having to use energy-intensive heavy equipment, all while developing structures that are scalable, greener, healthier and more technologically advanced than ever before. 

In today’s commercial environment, strong CSR credentials are essential for growth. 81% of firms say that having a formal policy for sustainability is crucial to remaining competitive, showing that the sustainability agenda is now non-negotiable. 

With the marketplace becoming increasingly complex, technology investment and sustainable actions are essential as companies face growing competition. Adrian Malleson, head of economic research and analysis at RIBA, says that COP26 was a “turning point” for the industry and companies can no longer ignore their environmental impact.

CSR on recruitment and the employee experience

For A&E firms, talent shortages are an industry-wide concern and issues are being flagged at every stage - from training to management succession planning. A Marsh McLennan study found that top employers, as measured by employee satisfaction and attractiveness to talent, have significantly higher ESG scores than their peers, suggesting that ESG performance can help companies both improve employee satisfaction and attract prospective employees.  

The key to creating a vibrant and sustainable company is embedding ESG within the business, while finding ways to engage your employees — from top executives to assembly line workers, employees want to be part of the conversation and play a role in delivery. 

Digital maturity and sustainability must go hand in hand

Technology has a huge role to play in enabling A&E companies to navigate some of the most pressing challenges they face in the 21st-century. And businesses recognise this; 80% believe that investing in technology to improve operations will help their firm win more business. 

Data-driven optimisation of decision-making is an important part of running a strategic, successful team and sustainability is a core part of this. Insights are needed for firms to understand how to progress their sustainability agendas in ways which also benefit the business as a whole. Becoming more sustainable is a massive undertaking, so utilising the right technology is vital to success. 

Green is the colour of future success

Fierce competition and rising costs remain concerns as business leaders look to the future and focus on modernisation. Adopting green practices, utilising technology to super-charge the route to success, is essential not only to safeguard their future but also to remain competitive. 

Employees are asking for it, consumers demand it and the environment needs it. It is a huge undertaking for A&E companies - one not to be underestimated. But like any new undertaking, setting clear project goals and utilising strong project management is key to success. 

One thing is for certain - looking back in years to come, firms will never regret investing time and resources into future-proofing our planet. 

Neil Davidson is regional vice-president EMEA and APAC, Deltek.

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email roconnor@infrastructure-intelligence.com.