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Purpose and impact as infrastructure experts advising decision makers

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Impact means a lot to CPCS. We don’t even bid on projects if we can’t see them making a positive difference by systematically applying a go or no-go analysis.

Key points: 

  • Our company’s mission is providing advisory solutions that can deliver impact by making tomorrow’s infrastructure and operations better
  • The most challenging part as advisors to decision makers is not controlling outcomes
  • To have a collective impact, CPCS recruits people who have a passion for their fields of study, are curious and entrepreneurial

Focus on projects that can make a difference

“It’s part of our decision-making framework to invest our time in projects that will have a positive impact,” says managing partner Marc-André Roy.

“Nothing is more demotivating than conducting in-depth research and delivering practical recommendations that go nowhere. So, we really get excited with projects that have potential to make a positive impact.”

CPCS lives by its environmental and social responsibility policy that says “well-planned, funded and managed infrastructure is critical to improve economic growth, improve peoples’ lives and protect the environment.”

The policy lays out how CPCS has an impact:

  • Through advice to clients, including better enabling economic growth and competitiveness, improving community mobility and access to electricity, creating better opportunities for disadvantaged groups, and promoting better, more efficient use of resources.
  • Through everyday operations. CPCS tracks its operating impacts, such as how much carbon emissions it emits from things like air travel.

CPCS has a Corporate Social Responsibility Advisory Group that coordinates reviews of its operations’ impacts.

Nigerian project helped preserve COVID-19 vaccines

Many of CPCS’s projects are making a difference, including one advising on a major transaction for a medical warehouse in Nigeria where previously all donated pharmaceuticals could only be stored in two government-owned warehouses.

“They were in poor shape and spoilage was significant,” Marc-André says. The CPCS project resulted in two state-of-the-art refrigerated warehouses, which were ready in time to preserve COVID vaccines for safe distribution.

In another example, the government of Madagascar asked CPCS to analyze whether the island nation in the Indian Ocean was getting a good deal on long-term fuel contracts.

“Our analysis showed that they were overpaying,” Marc-André says, which led Madagascar decision makers to restructure the payments and save about $50 million a year, representing about 0.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

CPCS is also involved in major Canadian transportation infrastructure projects, such as the $12 billion-plus Metrolinx expansion in Ontario and reviewing a 10-year capital plan for Translink in British Columbia, but these are still in process and all the ultimate impacts are not yet known.

CPCS advisors are sense makers, not decision makers

There lies a chief challenge to realizing impact, Marc-André says.

“Infrastructure projects can take years, even decades to study, plan, fund, build and become operational. And in between, governments and priorities change.”

“The point is we put our hearts out to do good work that could have a high positive impact, but we don’t control the realization of that impact,” Marc-André says.

The people doing that good work are CPCS’s 150+ employees in many countries. About 40 percent of staff are women and 45 percent are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

To have this impact, CPCS looks for passion, curiosity and entrepreneurship.

CPCS looks for team members with a passion for impact

“People with a passion are a must to have an impact,” Marc-André says. “We are infrastructure nerds. We look for people that understand the value of delivering impact from infrastructure and find this stuff fascinating. When you’re curious, you’re always trying to understand how things fit together. People that are entrepreneurial are not waiting to be told what to do, but rather saying, ‘I see an opportunity and I’m going to jump on it.’”

He says some degree of quantitative skills is important, whether people are economists or MBA types, or come from an engineering background.

“People that tend to like big picture thinking is very important. But without being afraid to roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds of the numbers.”

Why would someone who wants to make a difference in the world pursue a career at CPCS?

“Because we advise decision makers and decision makers are the ones that make decisions that can generate impact,” says Marc-André.

CPCS has an attractive lifestyle with a work week of about 40 to 45 hours, with options for flexible work hours, support for childcare if work goes late, a transit subsidy, coaching for advancement and a flat structure. At CPCS, people can forge their own career path and they get to apply their passion to cool infrastructure projects.

Marc-André says the CPCS strategy for retaining people is doing meaningful work. “We put a big premium on having fun.” And nothing is more fun at CPCS than having an impact, working for an employee-owned company that charts its own path, and especially when advising on social responsibility and climate change.

“That’s why we come to work every day,” says Marc-André.

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