Arup is a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants. With over 9,000 staff working across 37 countries on in excess of 10,000 projects at any one time, the company exerts a significant influence on the contemporary built environment. Arup has three main business areas: buldings, infrastructure and consulting.
The company’s fundamental values remain those of its founder, Sir Ove Arup, who believed in integrating environmentalism and social purpose into projects. Sir Ove first made a statement of these values in 1970, in what is now known by Arup as the ‘Key Speech’. They are strongly re-affirmed by the company today, while recognising that the characteristics of the firm may change in the future.
Arup has an organisational style that:
- Delivers results;
- Encourages initiative;
- Minimises bureaucracy;
- Cares for its members; and
- Celebrates success.
This case study profiles Arup’s corporate sustainability strategy and framework which have staff engagement and transparent communication at their core.
The company recognised that non-compliance and failure to engage with the environmental, social and economic issues of the sustainable development agenda could leave it exposed to an increasing variety of non-financial risks. Sustainability (often known as CSR) is being integrated across the breadth of Arup’s business model and is influencing the way in which the firm and its staff work with their clients in almost every facet of their work.
Although strongly committed to sustainable development and to an active community programme for many years, the company had not ‘articulated’ or reported on its activities in these areas previously. Nor had it identified how these areas could be embedded and integrated into the company – as they are now – by reference to Ove Arup's vision and values. A policy and an internal strategy for sustainability were developed in late 2007 and the first corporate sustainability report, for 2007, was published in 2008.
Taking Sir Ove’s vision, the first step in developing the policy and strategy was to create a framework which puts Arup’s people at the heart of any action. To foster their engagement, staff members are encouraged to think for themselves about how to transform their work and generate more sustainable outcomes.
As well as supporting innovative approaches to implementation of sustainability strategies on projects, Arup has held competitions to ensure that these best practice examples are being communicated to the widest possible range of stakeholders.
The company’s long-term internal sustainability network has been supported by an active intranet forum, focused on ensuring that these internal communication channels are used in a proactive fashion. Topics on the company ‘blog’ range from the sharing of best practice to the questions of the firm’s leadership on application of the policy and the acceptability of involvement on specific projects.
A fundamental feature of Arup’s programme has been the maintenance of an open and accessible nature and approach to the policy and its application.
Internally, the process of moving towards sustainable development is referred to as a ‘journey’, in which all levels of leadership are fully aware that uncomfortable topics will have to be addressed. An early example of this was the response of some staff to the firm’s engagements on projects in certain locations, e.g. Middle East. The calculation of Arup’s carbon footprint is expected also to yield challenges: air travel is likely to be exposed as a fundamental issue.
Up-coming initiatives include producing a training film and running ‘what does it mean’ sessions with staff across the regions to raise the level of discussion, debate and idea generation around the topic.
Revisiting Sir Ove’s set of values within the context of sustainable development has been successful in refocusing the business vision while responding to the changing agendas of Arup’s customers. In addition, sustainability is seen as key to engaging with staff in a company that needs to attract and retain key talent.
Why is it CSR?
Rather than resting on its laurels of being a socially and environmentally responsible company, Arup is proactively implementing a corporate sustainability strategy. The strategy takes into account future risks to the sustainability of the business and is aligned to corporate values and the overarching business strategy for the firm.
The company recognises that the current economic situation could threaten the embedding and expansion of sustainability initiatives, with commercial imperatives being a potential barrier.
In November 2008, Arup will produce its second corporate sustainability report. It is envisaged that this will comment on progress in the embedding and integration of the principles of sustainable development, refreshed from Ove Arup’s original vision.
For more information on Arup’s approach to corporate sustainability, please contact David Singleton on David.Singleton@arup.com or visit www.arup.com.
© Article 13 and CBI – CSR Case Study Series, June 2008
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