Contractors are Partners for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

In the words of the United Nations (UN), sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It is front of mind as several countries introduced targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and top companies are constantly looked at for their leadership and impact in this space. Whether it is Tech’s Frightful Five, Fortune 500, or other leading companies, our corporate services and Special Projects clients play a large role in influencing public perception and policy.

And as a contractor partner, it’s important to understand environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards so we can help our clients achieve their sustainability, equity, and community impact goals.

“In our quest to serve our clients in communities from coast to coast and to be a leader in corporate social responsibility, we have to look at sustainability in a holistic way. At the end of the day, we aren’t just a builder finishing a project and moving on to the next. The legacy of what we build together lasts longer than the project,” said Rachael Guerrero, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager.

The Environment

“When it comes to the environment, there are a host of companies and current Swinerton clients that are making pledges, which affects what they build—from data centers and warehouses to the interiors of their workplaces—and how they build it,” said Peter Hau, VP and Director of Corporate Services.

In 2007, Google became the first major company to be carbon neutral. In 2020, it became the first major company to neutralize its entire legacy carbon emissions. Now, Google is aiming to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. Their environmental commitment is detailed down to selecting building types and including construction in the Google value chain.

Apple committed to being 100% carbon neutral for supply chain and products by 2030. Amending construction contracts to include waste reporting and diversion requirements is an example of how they help minimize the amount of waste projects can generate.

Microsoft pledged to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050, remove from the environment all the carbon that the company has emitted directly or through electricity use since its founding in 1975. Part of this pledge includes pursuing LEED Platinum certification through innovations like mass timber construction and funding a new tool, the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) to enable data-driven decisions in selecting carbon-smart building materials.

Amazon’s commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040 means they too are looking at the sustainable operations of buildings, down to construction materials. Facebook has net-zero GHG emissions for its value chain by 2030, looking at Scope 3 indirect emissions such as construction, which according to the World Green Building Council account for 38% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

When it comes to construction, a knowledgeable contractor partner can help clients achieve carbon-neutral goals, which look heavily into the carbon footprint of materials going into building.

“In terms of environmental impact, the structures we build and renovate will be there beyond the duration of the project, so you have to look at the entire building lifecycle and how you can help a client meet or exceed their goals,” said Rachael Guerrero, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager.

Swinerton is a mass timber contractor, and mass timber reduces the carbon footprint of buildings. Through our mass timber expertise, we help clients do the math and get projects to pencil financially. Our presence at the International Mass Timber Conference and involvement with industry organizations such as WoodWorks allows us to advocate and help change codes so that more markets adopt mass timber as a sustainable building option.

“We look at mass timber and its applications everywhere, even looking at how it can turn the concrete story on its head in traditionally concrete markets like industrial and warehouse. By studying carbon-intensive industries and building sectors, a general contractor can help lead the way into testing and proving more sustainable options,” said Chris Evans, President of Timberlab.

Our Innovations team often works with Swinerton self-perform trade experts, ideating and testing methods to save time, energy, and waste. For a healthcare client, for example, Swinerton helped them achieve their waste goals for the project by implementing a multiple dumpster and cost incurred system and policy with subcontractors to reduce construction and demolition debris. As a result of this innovative thinking, Swinerton diverted 65% of the waste generated on the project.

DEI and the Workplace

“Awareness is half of the battle when it comes to sustainability. Contractors can choose to resist or lead. From DEI to mass timber to innovations, Swinerton is choosing to lead,” said Eric Foster, CEO.

For over 30 years, Swinerton has supported the economic development of small and diverse businesses through its Subcontractor and Supplier Diversity Program. Our companywide goal to spend at least 20% of our subcontracting dollars with these business enterprises has regularly been met or exceeded, resulting in an average $588M spent each year for the last five years.

As companies large and small develop their supplier diversity programs, it’s important to have a contractor partner that can help them achieve their equity goals. Swinerton’s knowledge and expertise, as well as our ability to assist diverse firms in building their capacity and beefing up their resumes so they can competitively bid on projects and sustain their business operations is why clients turn to us as their preferred contractor.

Swinerton’s commitment to the UN’s Global Compact requires us to consistently measure our progress to further the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Part of this commitment is supporting SDG #11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities. By taking steps to make cities inclusive, safe, and sustainable, Swinerton builds better communities that will be resilient through economic hardship, natural disasters, and crises.