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ESG Impact in the Construction Industry

Last modified: 2022-08-05 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

The construction industry spans a broad set of players from various fields (contractors, manufacturers, haulers, specialized trades, crop farmers, etc.) and significantly contributes to Quebec's economy.

When imagining a construction job site, one often thinks of plowed lands, heavy pollution-ridden machinery, and a workforce prone to injury at any time. Nevertheless, the current climate calls for continuous progress in this ever-growing industry.

As an entrepreneur, chances are you want to stand out, add value to your company, and positively contribute to society. To do so, your projects, in terms of how they are managed, developed, and executed, must reflect the impact you want to have on the economy, environment, and society.

As a matter of fact, positioning yourself favourably in mainstreaming goals aimed at a circular economy is beneficial to your reputation, clients, and your investors. Methinks it is easier said than done and a tad utopian... Well, we all have to start somewhere when it comes to improving our eco-friendly practices.

ESG Criteria 

This initialism first arose within the financial sector and is now spreading to other areas of society. Aiming to be socially responsible, intelligently managed, and leave a less battered planet to future generations, these criteria contribute to making better decisions when pursuing your entrepreneurial activities.

E Is for Environmental

work site recycling_esg impact in the construction industry

Source: Flickr

  • Measure the impact your company has on the environment, climate, and pollution.
  • Try to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, water and electricity consumption, and biodiversity footprint around the work site.
  • Efficiently manage the use of natural resources and recycle your waste.

S Is for Social

diversity_esg impact in the construction industry

Source: Tumisu – Pixabay

  • Analyze and improve the impact your company has on your clients and all the people who are involved in the construction process (suppliers, citizens, employees, etc.).
  • Ensure security as much in terms of confidentiality, and banking transactions, as physically on work sites.
  • Create a work environment that fosters learning and training.
  • Honour rights, standards, accessibility, and inclusion.

G Is for Governance

smart management_esg impact in the construction industry

Source: Ameen Fahmy – Unsplash

  • Improve your relationships with shareholders and clients.
  • Clearly structure the different administrative and management positions.
  • Be fair, forthcoming, and collaborative across the board and in all departments (sales, sourcing, and management policies...)

How to Apply ESG Criteria

While these eco-friendly practices are strongly encouraged, there is no one size fits all consensus, nor are there any clear, sharp, and detailed guidelines. Even a subject as well-known as the carbon tax is seemingly murky. It all comes down to a matter of ethical commitment, individual subjectivity, and greater knowledge.

However, on-site, good old-fashioned common sense applies and everyone has their own (yet tried and tested) methods depending on their goals and project requirements. For example, the same guidelines will not be applied to a start-up project as to the renovation of a century-old structure.

Reduce Your Ecological Footprint

In other words, to have a positive impact on the environment, start by upgrading your fleet of vehicles to electric cars.

Then, collaborate with organizations that salvage and manage waste from your work site in an eco-friendly way, or perhaps educate you on how to repurpose waste for a later project.

Draw up architectural plans that will result in the use of technologies that will generate energy and heat transfer between sections of the building or that will allow for renewable energy, such as solar panels. Ideally, aim for a carbon-neutral construction and create biodiversity within the building.

Consider materials that have a myriad of functions essential to preserving the environment. For example, wood absorbs carbon, emits little GHG throughout its life cycle, and is derived from a renewable source that is locally grown and processed. Besides being versatile and durable, it blends in with any décor.

Improve Your Commercial and Management Performance

Favour sites that promote client autonomy and encourage the use of nearby services.

Work with suppliers with ESG strategies and learn from the younger generation who are committed to aligning their personal values with those of the company.

Promote equality and gender diversity by adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards violence and encouraging women to join your workforce. Set realistic goals, such as increasing the percentage of skilled, visible minority employees to 20% within the next 5 years.

Keep up with the latest technologies, use digital management tools, etc.

Certifications and Governmental Measures

Complying with all the various recommendations set forth by various programs in place to improve ESG practices is not mandatory. Moreover, there is a wide range of such programs, depending on the province, type of project, department, and so on. Just to name a few: WELL, IWBI, CBDC, BOMA BEST…

The two most well-known and followed certifications are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and ICP (Investor Confidence Project).

The first one targets all aspects of the construction and renovation process. It is obtained by cumulating an impressive performance score in areas such as green design, energy efficiency, employee health and safety, and the selective use of materials. The second certification focuses on project financing and good business protocols.

Simply put, being proactive and innovative is your best bet when it comes to developing useful ESG practices on your work site.

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