Innovation and sustainable development in the Group: pursuing impact management, increasing our competitive edge.
he challenging economic conditions do not, however, set aside the challenges of innovation and sustainable development, such as reducing our dependency on fossil energies, relieving pressure on natural resources, preserving biodiversity and systematically enhancing all resources, from recycling materials to restoring human-impacted environments. The fast-expanding sustainable city market confirms this model and consolidates the directly related sustainable development strategies.
Benoît de Ruffray - Eiffage CEO, signed, in July 2016 a sustainable development Charter that apply to all Group employees.
Systemic approach and multiple expertise in support of sustainable cities
Confirming trends seen in recent years, three urgent needs fuel increasingly pressing demand for sustainable cities:
- the urgent environmental need caused by harmful consequences of fast and massive urbanisation;
- an urgent social need arising from the cohabitation or even confrontation of populations migrating to urban areas out of economic necessity rather than choice;
- the urgent economic need for better, faster and less costly construction, for people and authorities with limited financial resources.
Eiffage's sustainable city strategy initiated in 2007 and consolidated by the Group's sustainable urban development programme Phosphore, was applied in two main areas in 2015:
- construction of the smartseille eco-district, implementing the fruits of Phosphore programme research through the Haute Qualité de Vie® construction methodology;
- design and delivery of a digital urban design tool embodying sustainable cities "à la française" for export and associating the components of national sustainable city expertise under a single banner.
The corporate ecosystem: reliant on the ecosystem in general
Carbon, carbon, carbon…
The short respite brought by the artificial drop in Brent crude oil prices in 2014 merely confirms the need to guard against the economic turbulence that market manipulation causes, pending the inevitable depletion of stocks. This lack of visibility makes the fossil fuel substitution strategy all the more relevant.
After identifying and measuring the greenhouse gas emissions of activities, an essential prerequisite for making any change in this area, and in addition to its global sustainable city strategy, Eiffage promotes efforts in three areas:
- research programmes on alternative products and processes to fossil energies, particularly in public works;
- duplicating the technical-economic carbon arbitrage fund in other public works projects, following the first positive feedback from the Bretagne-Pays de la Loire high-speed rail link where this financial system was implemented for the first time in France;
- improving and promoting expertise in sustainable construction and energy retrofit, supported by systematic use of energy saving certificates for customers.
Issues related to the living world
Biodiversity has clearly become a fully-fledged issue in the construction and public works sectors. Preserving biodiversity is an essential condition to obtain administrative permits, but it is also an increasingly a competitive advantage, particularly in projects with high environmental value.
Eiffage illustrates this change management in the book entitled Towards Green Engineering, published in April 2014. Through three major public works projects, it recounts the improvements made and lessons learned from implementing the French "avoid/reduce/offset (ERC) sequence.
Similarly, each year since 2012, Eiffage has reported on progress of the twenty-eight actions deployed under its NBS commitments. The association Humanité et Biodiversité assesses and reviews this progress each year.
Lastly, in December 2013, Eiffage became an accredited member of BBOP, the international offset initiative aiming to achieve no net loss of biodiversity. At the BBOP International Conference in London, the Group participated on the topic of sustainable development governance and biodiversity conservation in connection with the Bretagne-Pays de Loire high-speed rail line project.
Materials and natural resources – do more with less
In a context of forecast material scarcity, responsible withdrawal, recycling and increased reclamation of waste –whether from dismantling or recycling industrial or farming sector waste – are areas in which the divisions are active. In particular, the Infrastructures division is developing technical and industrial solutions to considerably increase the portion of inert recycled waste in its products.
The company: a living social ecosystem adjusting to changes
The social component finds many applications in the construction and concessions sector, focussing on several themes of varying age and maturity. For example, clear procedures and dedicated resources have long been in place for workplace accident prevention policies, supported by detailed management tools.
To improve our response to the fundamental challenges of training, Eiffage has overhauled its entire training system. All Group and division training is now united in the Eiffage University for the benefit of all employees, from tradesmen to senior managers.
Beyond compliance with the labour clauses included in some contracts, Eiffage's pro-active internal policies greatly encourage active collaboration by the divisions with local integration players, throughout the year and systematically for major projects, like the Bretagne-Pays de Loire high-speed rail line which achieved exemplary results (information is provided in the Employment chapter). The divisions' in-house training centres provide training courses leading to qualifications for youths experiencing academic difficulties, while adapting teaching to internal recruitment needs.
Lastly, in terms of diversity, the Group has signed and implements equal opportunity commitments, and sustains initiatives in favour of disabled and senior worker employability through action plans. Equal opportunities, a well-defined but still immature subject, remains a tough challenge in which progress is slow.
Operational departments – a strategic target
Operational integration of sustainable development into the Group's tender preparation is an absolute priority, as sustainable development, like innovation, must become a business component of offers in the collective mind.
In 2015, this integration strategy again relied on the deployment of several operational tools :
- the Univers HQVie® digital platform internally designed by division operational departments and the Group Sustainable Development department with the aim of swiftly extending the Haute Qualité de Vie® (high quality of life) sustainable construction methodology to all operational entities;
- the third enhanced version of the GEODE digital tool for operational environmental management, deployed across all divisions to support the five hundred staff in charge of environmental issues and sustainable development.