Climate change and the depletion of natural resources. Our society’s biggest issues. And with the built environment’s carbon footprint accounting for ~50% of global emissions, this international construction powerhouse is determined to take clear steps towards tackling them. Inspired to lead the way, Laing O’Rourke recently unveiled its new ambition to achieve operational net zero by 2030, and become a net zero company before 2050.
Despite its huge scale, Laing O’Rourke is, and operates as, a family-owned business and many of its 12,000 employees have been employed for decades. Founder Ray O’Rourke is known for pushing new boundaries, being innovative and setting new standards – inspiring his clients, employees, partners and stakeholders alike. And like all industry leaders, decarbonisation has been high on his executive team’s agenda. There was never any doubt that a comprehensive sustainability and climate strategy – designed to achieve net zero before 2050 – would not only transform the future of engineering and construction more broadly, but also support Laing O’Rourke’s license to operate in our increasingly uncertain world.
Global Executive team members Madeleina Loughrey-Grant, Group Legal and Tax Director and Rebecca Hanley, Group Strategy & Transformation Director, were only too pleased to take this company priority under their wings in 2020.
Madeleina says, “Being a responsible business means being honest about the consequences of our activities and their impact. We needed a strategy to help us be transparent of those impacts, measure them accurately, and act to minimise them. I’m really passionate about excelling in our climate disclosures on climate risk – that’s what industry leaders need to do.
”Rebecca adds, “We’re setting clear goals and mapping out how we can protect the environment and help people thrive. This work gave us the opportunity to bed down our thinking in this space, overcome competing priorities, and create the environment we needed for people in the business to take this agenda forward. Our new approach addresses our clients’ needs too, who increasingly have their own net zero targets. It’s a win-win for everyone in the industry and the environment.”
“Our people are very proactive in setting out their expectations of the business in demonstrating genuine responsibility for the environment, but also the capacity to make a real difference through engineering-led thinking. We’ve received great feedback since launching our new sustainability strategy. Our targets and new processes make it really easy for our people to get involved, and directly contribute towards the decarbonisation and modernisation of construction.” Josh Murray, Group Director, People and Corporate Affairs, Laing O’Rourke
So, what did it take to develop a plan for net zero? Where to start? Well, with lots of listening, consultation, research and workshopping. Over 50 different operating unit leaders, representatives and procurement managers from across the business helped gather data and studied procurement contracts to paint a picture of climate risks and opportunities. Developing a solid understanding of Scope 1 (direct), 2 (indirect generated from purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling) and 3 (all other indirect) emissions was also key, in order to develop sector-leading targets and a clear plan of attack to introduce new processes that track and minimise operational emissions.
Will Rayward-Smith, Consulting Partner at Deloitte, is passionate about energy and unlocking new opportunities enabled by clean technology. He’s also a proud Laing O’Rourke alumni, and was delighted to be closely involved in developing its new leading-edge sustainability strategy.
Will says, “This project was about leading on decarbonisation and accelerating Laing O’Rourke’s transition pathway. It’s not just about reducing risks and doing the right thing, though that’s obviously important. It’s also about realising the business growth opportunities that come with net zero. We know infrastructure will continue to be delivered to get to net zero – it’s the way you deliver that counts. Whether it’s using renewable or hydrogen energy, designing low emissions housing and buildings, or developing new products to support greener concrete; the future is mind boggling. It’s about redefining supply chain partnerships and reimaging the way construction is done. Laing O’Rourke’s engineers can now create a future roadmap to produce lower carbon versions for each building element over the coming years.”
Sam Donaldson, Hub Sustainability Lead, Laing O’Rourke concludes, “The majority of our emissions relate to purchased materials, especially diesel fuel and concrete. To accelerate decarbonisation, we need to work closely with our suppliers to set targets, capture data, do R&D, and more. We also need to encourage the electrification or the use of renewable alternatives to power our own operations, and invest in commercial solar panels, batteries and renewable energy tariffs… our new strategy factors all of this in and will have a direct impact on the planet.”
“I’m so proud we’re pushing the limits to be net zero and we have received overwhelming support from industry to meet our targets.” Sam Donaldson, Hub Sustainability Lead, Australia