At a glance, you may think that diversity and equity are an entirely different topic from sustainability, but in actuality, sustainability is about the responsibility to our environment, our surrounding communities, and our employees.
So, just how is equity related to sustainability? Consider that the journey to sustainability is actually the sum of many goals. These include dealing with safety for employees and the community around projects, organizational excellence and leadership at the corporate level, economic strength, transformation, climate, as well as diversity and equity.
At AOE, we are seeing the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topic surface a lot related to our industry discussions about sustainability and resiliency. While at first glance the connection took us for pause, with a deeper dive on these topics, it makes great sense. DEI at an organization refers to the responsibility of that entity to ensure that civil and human rights are preserved and protected for each individual, and that all persons are treated equally and without prejudice.
This extends to the community as well, and also includes environmental justice, which refers to the fair treatment and meaningful engagement of all people with regard to environmental protection. It’s social sustainability. The same efforts to preserve surrounding green areas should be provided to all neighborhoods. Additionally, all neighborhoods, all people, deserve equal infrastructure updates to make areas more livable and accessible to work opportunities. Another example of social sustainability includes looking at transportation needs and working with the community can ensure that projects are built near public or shared transportation options.
From another aspect of social sustainability in the workplace, a company needs to protect and enhance the safety and health of all employees, including those with disabilities. The community also should be afforded safety around projects and ease of access for everyone. Accommodations should be made so everyone can be equally safe at work and out in the community.
Remember that unfortunately, construction projects are often perceived as having negative impacts on communities. This is where the importance of sustainable development can be stressed. The “not in my back yard” mentality can be addressed through active engagement with the community and the proper alignment of projects with community needs and goals. Through strong leadership, a community’s concerns are confronted, and conflicts can be avoided.
By ensuring that equity, diversity and social justice are fundamental considerations within a project’s process and decision making, a company can meet the needs of their employees as well as the community. For any project, include social sustainability in the stakeholder engagement, project team commitments and decision making.
AOE has been very busy during the last year helping many associations as well as corporations assemble their programs and communications related to sustainability, equity and resilience. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you share your organization’s story.