For McConnell Dowell, a commitment to global business principles has become a guiding star during its ESG journey.
McConnell Dowell is one of 14 companies in the Australian construction and materials sector that has signed on to the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact.
According to the UN, corporate sustainability starts with a company’s value system and a principles-based approach to doing business. Committing to the Ten Principles means a company agrees to meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
McConnell Dowell became a signatory in 2017 and only recently formalised its environmental, social and governance, or ESG framework. However, it has been delivering sustainable solutions for some time.
Founded more than 60 years ago in New Zealand, today the company has 3000 employees across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. It calls itself “the creative construction company”, which in practical terms, sees it committed to design and construction solutions that contribute positively to the communities in which it operates.
A prime example of this approach is found in Queensland, where the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project is a world-first, with McConnell Dowell part of a team that is repurposing an abandoned goldmine for renewable energy storage.
“We’re looking at sustainability through the lens of the Ten Principles which have been specifically written for business,” says Samantha Johnson, Executive General Manager Health, Safety, Environment and Quality at McConnell Dowell.
“Without the global support of responsible businesses aligned to these principles, broader societal goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals would be impossible to achieve.”
A strong history of delivering sustainable projects
McConnell Dowell delivered the Blue Mountains Sewage Transfer Scheme in 1995, which set three world records for tunneling at the time. It also held the record for the longest incrementally launched bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, the biggest single marine terminal in Singapore and Australasia’s largest-diameter tunnel project in Auckland.
Other environmental sustainability, social and governance projects include: recycling temporary works as part of a new railway station constructed in Melbourne’s west, empowering people impacted by disability, partnering with local Indigenous businesses and engaging local Men’s Sheds to build bandicoot shelters for a key road upgrade.
It all comes down to how McConnell Dowell engages with clients early on in the project planning stages. As part of their central “creative construction” approach, the team applies creative thinking techniques and strategies to approach design challenges from different directions. This helps deliver more lateral design solutions that meet the needs of clients and communities.
“When clients approach us for a construction or infrastructure project, we explore the impact to not just the environment, but the potential for the community and the local area as well. We challenge ourselves to come up with the best solution that provides a better life with all these aspects in mind,” says Johnson.
“If the client moves ahead with our recommendation, we actively look for opportunities to support local employment, utilise local suppliers or materials and engage the community to involve them around the environmental aspects.”
Sustainable goals through a business lens
To facilitate an efficient rollout of its ESG framework, Johnson chose to map key ESG activity under the umbrella of its five corporate values: “safety & care, honesty & integrity, customer focus, performance excellence and working together”.
“Our team already knows and understands our core values inside and out, and it’s a key part of our vibrant culture. It made sense to weave our ESG thinking into our values so we could harness the natural energy of our people and put it to good use,” says Johnson.
“It’s worked well so far. The rollout of our ESG program to employees has been well received and the feedback is that our teams are really getting behind it.”
Find out more about McConnell Dowell’s sustainable projects or contact the team at McConnell Dowell for more information.