Stantec – 2019 SDG Leadership Awards


Website: Stantec

Industry: Professional Services

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Primary SDG Focus

Secondary SDG Focus

Which of the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact applies to your emerging practice project/initiative?

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
  • Principle 2: Make sure that they are not complicit in human right abuses.
  • Principle 6: The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  • Principle 7: Business should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
  • Principle 8: Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
  • Principle 9: Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
  • Principle 10: Business should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

Please summarize your company’s SDG focus, how that SDG was implemented and how you achieved and measured the impact.

Stantec Inc. is a global professional services company comprised of designers, engineers, and scientists innovating together to support a more sustainable planet. We positively impact the world by operating our business in a responsible manner and through the services we deliver to our clients. We recognize that sustainability success is possible only when society achieves an equitable distribution of social, environmental, and economic benefits in both the developed and developing world. We adopted the SDG framework to guide and support our sustainability strategy. To better concentrate on our areas of greatest influence, we prioritized the goals and began tracking the projects that support them.

Stantec recognizes that communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind and have put our primary focus on SDG #11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). In supporting communities, our work directly influences SDG #6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG #7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG #9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), SDG #13 (Climate Action), SDG #14 (Life Below Water), and SDG #15 (Life on Land).

Stantec shares SDG expertise, knowledge, and innovative implementation strategies across our business and works with clients to build their SDG awareness and meet their SDG commitments. Sustainability is built into our Strategic Plan. In the context of a changing climate, shifting demographic trends, and evolving economic realities, we anticipate and address the long term impacts of our design decisions. Each of our geographies and business operating units actively engages in creating a sustainable world; a world where buildings give back, water is valued, nothing gets wasted, development is responsible, and everyone can access renewable energy.

Our success is recognized through our industry standings. For example, we are the #1 green design firm for educational facilities (Engineering News-Record ), #1 international design firm for sewer and waste (ENR), #2 international design firm for water (ENR), #2 green building firm (Building Design & Construction Magazine), #3 design firm for hydro plans (ENR), #7 environmental firm (ENR), #9 design firm for wind power (ENR), and #12 on the list of Best Corporate Citizens (Corporate Knights). At Stantec, we are proud to see our work improving the livelihoods and well-being of communities around the world.

How was your primary SDG focus identified and prioritized in the company’s value chain?

Our sustainability commitments are integrated into how we operate our business, the services we offer, and our Company’s values: we put people first, we do what is right, we are better together, and we are driven to achieve.

SDG #11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) is a natural fit for Stantec because it is already the basis of our company’s purpose (creating communities) and promise (design with communities in mind).

Stantec prioritizes our commitment to designing with community in mind by actively supporting thought leadership in, and tracking financial revenue from, our service offerings that directly result in sustainable cities and communities. We have built a multi-disciplinary team ranging from marine scientists specializing in Arctic communities to coastal hazard and risk mitigation experts. Our sustainable design consultants are located across the world.

To truly design with community in mind is to consider how our work impacts the social, environmental, and economic health of the community impacted by our services. In other words, to design with community in mind is to design with sustainability in mind. It is incorporated into all that we do, from the clients we chose to work with, to the vendors we purchase from, to the ways we operate our business, to the partners and subcontractors we work with, to the passion we have for serving our communities.

How was your primary SDG integrated and anchored throughout your business?

In Stantec’s strategic planning process we track and evaluate global megatrends that are shaping the world we operate in and impacting the cities and communities we support. In response, we prioritize strategic growth initiatives to help us best support our clients and achieve our goals. For 2019 these initiatives have been identified as coastal resiliency, smart cities, energy remix, and reinvigorating infrastructure, all of which are directly related to the broader topic of sustainability and resiliency, and SDG #11 specifically.

To help support Stantec’s sustainability commitment and provide strategic direction, we also established an inter-disciplinary, internal leadership committee that works together to actively nurture an integrated SDG approach across our geographies. This team focuses on making sure we pursue client opportunities that contribute to the goals, tracking our impact, and sharing expertise, knowledge, and innovative implementation strategies.

In addition, we have established a mechanism for tracking revenue from service offerings that directly relate to SDG#11 (as well as the other SDGs we support). These data points will be used as KPIs in setting targets and goals for increasing our SDG alignment year over year.

Did you employ any innovative approaches in your efforts to implement the goal?


Stantec’s Creativity and Innovation program (with a total budget of ~$3 million per year) supports the efforts of our people to apply ideas that benefit our clients and communities. It consists of four areas: grants to develop new ideas (Greenlight), monetary awards for thought leadership (Publish and Speak), an Innovation Forum to recognize and celebrate innovative projects and the people behind them, and a Venture Fund that supports the startup of a new practice.

In 2018, almost 60% of the grants for the Greenlight program were for sustainability-related projects, such as investigating the effect of micro-plastics on drinking water and creating prefabricated designs for Passive House-certified buildings.

Our Publish & Speak Program monetarily awards employees that speak at technical conferences and publish articles in peer-reviewed technical journals. In a typical year, we distribute more than 300 financial awards, of which approximately 50% are related to sustainability/resilience.

The Stantec Innovation Forum is an annual celebration where employees from countries around the globe gather to share and learn. More than 90% of the topics chosen in 2018 related to sustainability, including renewable energy design and financing, ecological and cultural preservation, social justice in transportation, emergency response, social license to operate, and Indigenous relations.

Finally, our Venture Fund helps employees advance ideas that enable Stantec to capitalize on market opportunities, most of which are directly associated with sustainability. For example, this fund helped launch our Urban Places initiative, which is focused on helping communities chart a path to increased livability, equity, and sustainability.

Were any partnerships leveraged or created?

Beyond our participation with the UN Global Compact, Stantec regularly partners with companies and non-governmental organizations in ways that advance the SDGs.

For example, we

  • Joined the 2030 Commitment of the American Institute of Architects – by 2030, all designs for new buildings, developments, and major renovations will be carbon neutral
  • Partner with organizations like the European Union Commission, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Unicef, US AID, Gates Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide water and sanitation services in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe
  • Work with the Rockefeller Foundation and city governments under the 100 Resilient Cities program (transitioning to the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience) to integrate resilience strategies so cities can adapt to physical, social, and economic challenges
  • Partner with the World Bank’s South Asia WePOWER program to support higher female participation in energy projects
  • Participate in the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, which promotes Indigenous relationships and an economy based on shared prosperity
  • Supported the Institute for Sustainable Development in the creation of the Envision framework, and used the framework on ten projects, including wastewater and road projects that were firsts in the world
  • Joined the Natural Capital Coalition focused on quantifying the economic value of natural capital to promote conservation and restoration
  • Worked with Engineers Canada and Natural Resources Canada to help develop the PIEVC protocol, which helps communities identify risks, highlight areas to protect, save money, and safeguard the environment. We support and apply the protocol for communities across Canada and in Central America.

What communications strategy did you employ to share the initiative with your stakeholders?

Stantec uses various means to communicate our impact towards the SDGs, including:

  • Publishing an annual GRI-compliant Sustainability Report that outlines our commitment to sustainability leadership and progress against the SDGs
  • Maintaining an internal communication site available to all staff that summarizes Stantec’s contribution to achieving each of the SDGs
  • Providing internal communications to staff that highlight SDG-related topics, including leadership messages, project and staff stories, email, video, newsletters, and Yammer channels
  • Providing external communications to clients, partners, investors, and prospective employees to further understanding of the SDG framework and the applicability to our project work, including project case studies, blogs, videos, social media campaigns, direct client meetings, investor communications, promotional materials, webinars, community events, etc.
  • Maintaining three thought leadership streams on specific to SDG-related topics: Sustainable and Resilient Design, Cities Adapting to Change, and The Future of Water. Each provide content from Stantec experts with the purpose of sharing our collective knowledge and experience to help communities around the world improve their sustainability

How were KPIs and the levels of success outlined and defined?

Stantec is still in the process of identifying appropriate KPIs and defining appropriate success factors. Efforts are being led by an inter-disciplinary internal SDG committee that meets monthly to identify opportunities, share best practices, improve tracking mechanisms, and increase our SDG-related project activity. Our Executive Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Committee will prioritize and approve the defined KPIs.

Stantec most positively impacts the world through the services we deliver to clients. To better quantify this impact, we are in the process of configuring a business intelligence tracking system that will associate revenue from the types of projects we support and the specific services we provide to the individual SDGs. From that baseline understanding, we will be able to set goals for improvement based on actual metrics and track our progress over time to see trends and opportunities.

For our Stantec operations, our Sustainability Director defines sustainability KPIs across the business that are approved and prioritized by our Executive ESG Committee. Stantec has programs in place to track hours volunteered and dollars donated for philanthropy supporting the environment, education, and wellness. ESG progress is actively tracked and publicly reported in our annual Sustainability Report.

How were reporting and monitoring conceptualized and undertaken?

Stantec’s internal SDG committee is comprised of representatives from each of our business operating units and major geographies. This team meets monthly via conference call to discuss current status and opportunities for improvement. In early 2019 a core group met in person for a strategy session to brainstorm alternatives for reporting and monitoring. This core group continues to collaborate to develop the strategic approaches defined in the meeting.

Stantec’s commitment to sustainability and the SDGs is led by our Director of Sustainability and fully supported by the senior leadership of the organization, who take an active role in guidance, reporting, and monitoring of activities. Direct management is provided by our Executive ESG Committee, which is accountable for our sustainability performance. This committee includes our Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Human Resources Officer, as well as senior vice presidents responsible for corporate strategy and health, safety, security (HSSE), and sustainability and vice presidents responsible for risk management, procurement, practice services, and indigenous relations.

Committee members ensure that sustainability and stakeholder priorities align, sustainability is integrated into our Strategic Plan and operations, and sustainability-related impacts, risks, and opportunities are addressed.

The Board of Directors HSSE & Sustainability Committee provides overall sustainability program oversight.


What were some key lessons learned?


When we began using the SDGs framework we were surprised and encouraged to see how much of our work already directly supported one or more of the goals. In fact, we quickly found that most of Stantec’s work connected to the SDGs. However, as a professional services firm, our product is the intellectual property we provide our clients so, ultimately, someone else builds, operates, and maintains the end-product of our designs or is responsible for implementing the strategic planning guidance we provide. This limitation makes quantifying the impact extremely challenging.

To address this limitation, we surveyed our management and employees to track information and solicit individual inputs. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that individual opinions were too subjective and varied dramatically based on where the individuals sat within the organizational structure, their physical geographic location, their years of experience, and the type of service provided.

Our current efforts are focused on identifying quantifiable tracking mechanisms that connect the SDGs to the existing processes and tools we use to measure financial performance as a public company. The goal is to better define a business case based on results that are repeatable and proven rather than subjective and easily influenced.

What were the key impacts and results?

Stantec’s 2018 Sustainability Report provides a comprehensive overview of our SDG impacts and results, including example projects, stories, and videos.