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Tue May 11 2021

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Laing O’Rourke sets sustainability and diversity targets

13 Apr Laing O’Rourke has set itself the target of being net zero in operations by 2030 and having equal numbers of male and female employees by 2033.

Laing O’Rourke’s decarbonisation target also sees the company develop a plan to tackle Scope 3 (indirect) emissions by 2050.

Samantha Hoe-Richardson, former environment chief at global mining company Anglo American, has been brought in to help reach net zero.

Chief executive Ray O’Rourke said: “As a family owned business, we have long been focused on delivering lasting benefits to our clients, our people and the communities our projects serve. We’ve made progress delivering our environmental plan, but the simple fact is the climate emergency demands we do more and with greater urgency. The same is true of diversity, which remains unacceptably low in our sector.

“The construction industry has some difficult challenges to solve, most notably that of reducing the embodied carbon in concrete. But I know our people have the passion to make a real difference and the experience to work with others, including our clients and partners, to deliver the progress required.

“The challenge is substantial, and I am therefore pleased to announce the appointment of Samantha Hoe-Richardson as group advisor on climate change and sustainability. She will advise the company’s environmental and technical leaders and challenge the board and group executive on progress towards our new targets.”

Operational net zero by 2030

Laing O’Rourke’s target is to deliver an absolute reduction in carbon emissions from its directly controlled operations (Scope 1 & 2 emissions) of at least 75% by 2030. The remainder, a maximum of 25%, will be achieved through offsetting or carbon removal activities.

The company has started the transition to biofuels as a stepping-stone to the full electrification of operations (including car fleet and plant).

Three projects are already in the works:

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  • converting all company offices and project sites to renewable energy tariffs
  • transitioning to an all-electric company car fleet
  • investing in commercial solar panels to power all operations at the precast concrete factory in Worksop (officially called Laing O’Rourke Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction).

A net zero company before 2050

The majority of the business’s emissions relate to purchased materials, in particular concrete and steel. To accelerate progress in reducing Scope 3 emissions Laing O’Rourke intends to:

  • work with its suppliers to embed Scope 3 data capture and reporting across all projects globally
  • work with strategic suppliers to develop emissions reduction targets
  • continue to invest in R&D to accelerate the development of low and zero carbon products manufactured off site at its UK facility or with global partners
  • support the delivery of clients’ net zero ambitions through wider use of its engineering carbon calculator to help optimise design for sustainability.

Diversity

Laing O’Rourke has included diversity in its sustainability strategy. “Becoming more diverse and inclusive is a key strand of the business’ mission to be the recognised leader for innovation and excellence,” it says.

The company currently has 5,500 employees worldwide and intends to have an equal number of men and women by 2033.

There are specific recruitment strategies targeting women, a referral bonus scheme, sponsorship of emerging female leaders and mandatory inclusivity training for senior and hiring managers. By implementing these measures, the company now has 36% more women in senior project roles in Australia than 12 months ago.

The company also intends to develop plans to increase the representation of people from other under-represented groups.

The diversity strategy is underpinned by plans for more offsite construction, more flexible working options and a corporate wellbeing strategy (Life at LOR).

Laing O’Rourke legal & tax director Madeleina Loughrey-Grant said: “The people across our business are driven by a strong sense of purpose, innovation and curiosity and, through the power of our collective experience, we will find the solutions needed to solve some of the biggest issues of our time. We will continue to challenge ourselves as we redefine how we deliver for our clients and for society, and in how we care for our people.”

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