An Interview with our Global Sustainability Sponsor

André-Martin Bouchard
Global Director, Environment & Resources
Global Sustainability Sponsor

Featured in 2019 Sustainability Report

Like many other companies, WSP is facing unprecedented challenges across the globe at this time. Can you comment on this context for your sustainability reporting?

While we are pleased to report on our 2019 sustainability performance, we cannot ignore what is going on in 2020. We see the COVID-19 pandemic as the ultimate example of why sustainability is key to our organization and embedded in WSP’s strategy; it affects our employees, has deep impacts on our communities and it is creating a huge economic challenge. We believe that organizations with strong sustainability programs and culture in place, such as WSP, will be able to navigate through the crisis much more efficiently than others.  

In this Report, we discuss our ambitious sustainability goals while recognizing the impact the crisis will have on our business this year and beyond, as well as the challenges we will need to overcome.

 

How does the Global Sustainability Sponsor role complement your operational position at WSP?

I am privileged to have led WSP’s Environment business since 2013 and the Resources sector since the beginning of 2019. We are proud of our talented professionals and have a clear vision to bring these business lines to a position of global leadership. Stepping into the Global Sustainability Sponsor role provides an excellent opportunity to leverage my passion for sustainability alongside my existing role at WSP, where I regularly interact with WSP’s Global Leadership Team, Board of Directors, clients and employees, to strengthen links between project work and corporate sustainability.

For WSP, sustainability is both an opportunity and a responsibility, as we draw upon our expertise to keep improving the organization. The work we have completed so far in sustainability has favourably positioned WSP as a leading organization in our industry, and I will continue on this path, particularly as we work towards further incorporating the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) principles into our business.

Being able to draw upon outstanding internal expertise, the full empowerment of our regions to deliver on their sustainability ambitions, and our continued focus on reporting and accountability should enable us to remain strong in our sustainability strategy.

What were the highlights of WSP’s sustainability program in 2019?

2019 was a busy and successful year. We created a global Sustainability Task Force, composed of representatives from all our operating regions and global corporate experts, to tackle some of the most pressing items on our sustainability agenda.

We are happy to report significant progress against our GHG emission reduction objectives. We have also secured a sustainability-linked credit facility with our banking syndicate, which was a first for a professional services firm in the Americas at the time of announcement. This means that achieving ambitious targets around GHG reduction, our Green Revenue and the percentage of women we have in leadership roles will enable us to reduce the cost of credit. Conversely, if we fail to maintain these metrics at the levels they were at the time of entering into the sustainability-linked credit facility, our borrowing costs will be higher.

We also conducted an internal gap analysis against TCFD disclosure items, with a view to improved alignment with the recommendations. Finally, we were pleased that our efforts were recognized as we were named “Most Sustainable Company in the Engineering Industry – 2019” by World Finance magazine.

 

You mentioned the new Sustainability Task Force. What progress has the group made so far?

We believe good progress has been made in the first year of the Task Force. Our operating regions are fully empowered to design and implement their own plans for GHG reductions, and all regions now have a plan in place. Last year, our US and Swedish businesses joined the UK in setting goals to become carbon neutral. We constantly learn from and leverage the best of our regional initiatives, to enhance our sustainability ambitions across the globe.

Although we recognize there are still efforts to make on reduction of emissions, in the future we will be able to count on the Task Force to support with the progression of other sustainability-linked ambitions1.

For WSP, sustainability is both an opportunity and a responsibility, as we draw upon our expertise to keep improving the organization.

The crisis will have a significant global impact on carbon emissions for 2020. What has been the impact on WSP?

In the last two months, we have had a genuine preview of a low-carbon world. Although current low levels of global activity cannot be maintained, it brings a unique perspective, and will inform WSP’s continued contribution to future thinking. Our Future Ready® program provides the ideal basis for this thought leadership.

Reduction in office space use and business travel will have a significant positive impact on WSP’s GHG emissions in the short term. However, to continue driving emissions reductions, we will need to consider new ways of working in the future. For example, we must examine whether the agility we are showing to deliver for our clients remotely during the crisis should translate into an increase in remote work, a decrease in office space needs, and reduced travel, over the medium or long term.

 

What are the main priorities for WSP’s sustainability initiatives in 2020?

It goes without saying that 2020 will be the “year of the pandemic”, and the challenges the situation has brought to our people and operations will persist for many months. Our sustainability-linked global ambitions and our commitment to the UNGC will help us focus on what matters. Social responsibility will become ever more important, so we can expect enhanced efforts to be made for our people, communities and wider stakeholder groups.

Being able to draw upon outstanding internal expertise, the full empowerment of our regions to deliver on their sustainability ambitions, and our continued focus on reporting and accountability should enable us to remain strong in our sustainability strategy. As we progress with the management of the crisis, we will look through our sustainability lens and see it as an accelerator of some of our ongoing initiatives, to keep on building a safe, compassionate and more resilient organization.


 

1 Some of our ambitions under our 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; it remains premature to reassess these ambitions at this time.


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