Sustainability – Risk, Reputation and Return

Dr Neil Kirkpatrick
A 10 point plan for maximising the benefits of being more sustainable.

In my experience of working with government bodies and leading companies worldwide, I have observed that many organisations fail to maximise the benefits associated with sustainability. This is largely due to a lack of clear understanding of how to minimise risks, enhance reputation and maximise returns on investment.

Most countries are increasingly keen to demonstrate how their new buildings, new communities and infrastructure projects are achieving sustainability standards. 

In Qatar, this is driven by the Qatar National Vision 2030 and government initiatives led by Ashghal (Public Works Authority), Qatar Rail and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. In most cases, sustainability performance is not expressed directly as reductions in energy use or water use, use of secondary materials or targets to support the national economy. Instead, projects are rated using sustainability tools such as GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

In this respect, rating tools such as GSAS and LEED are ‘surrogates’ for a wide range of parameters as well as for a structured, managed approach whereby sustainability practitioners typically define a suite of sustainability objectives and work with design and construction teams to assess what level of sustainability can be realistically achieved and delivered in a commercially viable manner.

One of the drawbacks of rating tools is that they don’t compare performance using sustainability strategies with a ‘do nothing’ approach. Without this baseline, users are often unaware of their resource efficiency savings and their reduction in climate change/water scarcity impacts.

At Faithful+Gould we use the ‘3R’s’ approach, to help stakeholders maximise the benefits of being more sustainable:

  • Risk – Stakeholders should identify risks and use the outcomes of a risk assessment exercise to guide priority areas for improvement. E.g. energy use, concerns over greenhouse gas emissions and increases in energy costs. A risk based approach may suggest reducing energy demand and considering the use of renewable energy technologies to supplement or reduce the use of fossil fuels and grid electricity. These solutions offer carbon footprint reduction benefits, as well as reduced costs when considered over a defined period of time.

  • Reputation – Being seen to be responsible and meeting stakeholder/customer needs will often enhance reputation, attracting new customers.  An enhanced reputation can also encourage investment and help increase share prices. This approach is also a great incentive for staff recruitment and retention. A poor reputation often delivers the opposite effects.

  • Return – All commercial organisations are dependent on robust financial planning supported by a healthy balance sheet and good cash flow to finance investment (e.g. in new technologies and staff). We encourage all stakeholders to scrutinise sustainability strategies and to assess capital and operating costs at the outset. Many organisations believe that it is only possible to be more sustainable by spending more money – even if that might be compensated by a return on investment over time. In most cases it is possible to be more sustainable without spending more money. Commercially viable alternative strategies and technologies can be explored, to reach the most sustainable outcomes possible.

Our 10 point strategy provides practical steps to minimise risks, enhance reputation and maximise returns on investment.

Qatar ranks among the countries with the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world with approximately 40.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted per person. This startling figure is around 10 times higher than the global average! Combine this with the fact that they also have the lowest rates of recycling in the world and it is clear to see why Qatar has made becoming more sustainable a central plank in its vision and strategy for the future.

Faithful+Gould supports this vision and have been providing our sustainability services not only in Qatar but around the Middle East. We lead sustainability performance improvement on a wide variety of projects, and represent the interests of many different stakeholders.

In addition to the use of rating tools, we are experts in the use of a suite of tools that focus on resource efficiency, carbon footprint reduction and modelling performance scenarios. We also lead the development and implementation of management systems covering all elements from sustainable procurement to designing and rolling out bespoke training programmes.