Iconic images from the 1930s of construction workers eating lunch on a girder atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York may have been more publicity than normal practice, but health and safety in the construction industry have nonetheless come a long way in the last 100 years. Federal statistics show that the incidence rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses are down significantly from just 20 years ago (1.7% in 2019 vs. 4.1% in 2000). The fatal injury rate, however, is 9.7 per 100,000 workers so, it’s no surprise that improving health and safety on the construction site remains a top focus for the industry, according to a GlobalData survey.
Core pillars of ESG for engineering and construction industry
Health and safety and the high reliance on labor mean social aspects of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda have been and will remain a high priority for the engineering and construction (E&C) industry. Similarly, governance has long been a hot topic in the sector given the size and complexity of contracts, competitive bidding processes, and the need to engage with both public and private stakeholders and to prevent bribery, corruption and anticompetitive behaviors. The environmental agenda is in focus across all industries, but buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of carbon emissions globally, according to the World Green Building Council. Carbon reduction and environmental initiatives are therefore a business imperative for contractors.
Today, these areas form the core pillars of ESG agendas at E&C firms, which, like many industries, are continuing to enhance their focus on ESG and communicate the impacts to stakeholders. The focus has evolved from traditional philanthropy and employee volunteer work to more holistic integration of these topics in business strategy as recognition of their importance in growth and risk management has grown. Effective ESG programs now underlie corporate risk management and strategic business imperatives.