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CPCS bolsters its environmental and social responsibility commitments

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New policy adds sustainable lens to all of the infrastructure consulting firm’s business activities.

In 2019, CPCS engaged its staff to define the firm’s overarching purpose.

One thing is clear: employees want to have a positive impact through their work in the infrastructure sector.

When infrastructure is well-planned, funded and managed, it can:

  • Boost economic growth
  • Improve people’s lives
  • Do less harm to the environment

CPCS knows because it’s been advising infrastructure leaders around the world on critical infrastructure decisions for over 50 years. The firm has since created long-term value for communities, the environment and economies.

This includes:

Leadership in corporate social responsibility

“I see how we do our part in generating positive environmental and social value,” says Marc-André Roy, co-Managing Partner at CPCS, and MBA holder specialized in Business and Sustainability.

The eco-minded leader saw directly the positive impacts of his fieldwork in microfinance in Benin before joining CPCS as a consultant in 2004.

His co-Managing Partner Jean-François Arsenault agrees too. Having spent a good portion of his childhood in Cameroon, he grew up valuing the contributions from people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

“Understanding our role and what CPCS can do to generate positive value from infrastructure is at the core of our mission.”

A company with a clear purpose helps

Pressures from growing cities, climate change and events like the COVID-19 pandemic stress the importance of smart, resilient and adaptable infrastructure. This is key to minimizing negative social, environmental and economic impacts.

“CPCS has a purpose that most businesses wish they had,” says Communications Director Benoit Laplante and member of the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Advisory Group.

CPCS realized that it could have a greater impact if it looked closer at its projects and day-to-day operations.

Like it did for its diversity, equity and inclusion policy, CPCS asked an employee-led advisory group to review and renew its environmental and social responsibility policy, which hadn’t been updated since 2009.

The beauty of being an employee-owned company

CPCS is not pressured by outside investors and shareholders seeking constant growth on a quarterly basis. The firm takes a long view because there’s an inherent business case in behaving in a sustainable manner.

Its environmental and social responsibility policy highlights two ways the firm has an impact:

  • Through its advice to clients: These impacts take many forms, including economic growth and competitiveness, improved community mobility and access to electricity, better opportunities for disadvantaged groups and more efficient use of resources.
  • Through its day-to-day operations: The firm’s environmental and social impact is relatively minimal. However, unnecessary travel is an issue addressed by this policy.

The policy has two objectives:

  • Minimize negative environmental and social impacts through client advice, day-to-day operations in offices, on the field and in moving around for work.
  • Create environmental, social and economic value as advisors to infrastructure leaders and by giving back as CPCS team members.

Concrete actions; doing fewer things well

The actions in the policy are built around three themes:

  1. Awareness
  2. Improvements
  3. Giving back

One action, under the Awareness theme, is to develop an inventory of all the firm’s current and potential impacts, positive or not. This includes carbon footprint. This tool allows CPCS to know its pain points, collect the right data and  set specific targets. 

“It’s pointless for CPCS to make unverified environmental or social claims,” argues Anurag Gumber, Senior Consultant at CPCS.

“Most of us are knowledgeable about the environment, renewable energy and air emissions,” he adds. “What we really need is a policy and program to measure the footprint of our impacts, good or bad.”

Despite the firm’s headquarters being in a LEED Gold certified building, Marc-André admits that greenhouse gas emissions is the firm’s weakness.

“We’re global consultants, so we fly a lot,” he adds. “That’s no excuse, however, to think that we’re exempt from minimizing our carbon footprint.”

Reduced travel and pro bono consulting work

The firm has opened small offices around the world to reduce the impact of its day-to-day operations. These posts reduce unnecessary travel and bring consultants closer to clients. The new Calgary office is an example.

Widespread adoption of videoconferencing has also reduced travel. While working from home is not everybody’s preference, it’s a way for some to emit less carbon emissions. 

CPCS is also crafting a philanthropy policy as part of its “Giving back” theme. This builds on the firm’s longstanding tradition of doing pro bono infrastructure consulting. Its latest contribution focuses on solar energy.

Finally, CPCS has committed to publish an annual CSR report and make it available publicly. The willingness to be held accountable is a hallmark of a responsible firm.

These measures, among others, set clear expectations.

The goal is that in a year from now CPCS can look back and say: “Yes, we’ve achieved this, and we’re living up to higher standards.”

Related policy: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CPCS

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