Last month, I spent four days at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the theme of how we can creating a shared future in a “fractured” world. Increasingly, we see that companies are expected to play a major role in solving global challenges, such as climate change and gender inequality. This is a responsibility we at Skanska embrace. Our future as a company and our ability to deliver on our business plan is dependent on it.
Discussing gender inequality
In the wake of #Metoo, and with International Women’s Day approaching, gender inequality and inclusion were high on the Davos agenda. This was brought up by multiple speakers, notably by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Canada who told the audience: It’s time to put women first. "I’m talking about hiring, promoting and retaining more women,” he said. "Not because it’s the right thing to do, or the nice thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do."
When I think of what we do at Skanska, this is something we have committed to work actively with across our organization. In Sweden, through a variety of programs we have increased the percentage of women in senior line management roles. We are using “Ethics Stops” to build awareness around different viewpoints. In our Finnish organization, a “Myth busting network has been established for those that want to engage and work with developing ways to create a more diverse organization. Our UK team has developed an innovative program to help experienced professionals return to work after career breaks with a 12-week return to work program. This includes coaching workshops, colleague mentoring and a comprehensive induction.
In sharing these examples, the work must continue, and there is a long way to go. It depends on creating a culture in which everyone feels included and valued.
At the forum, there was strong agreement that climate change is an urgent issue that cannot be ignored. At Skanska, we hold an important position in addressing this, with the built environment accounting for a large proportion of the world’s carbon emissions. We are part of the problem, but we also want to be an important part of the solution.
One way of doing this is implementing methods of linking the cost of a project with its carbon emissions, both during construction and in final operation. Often, using less materials, or using different materials, can both reduce cost and lower emissions.
Juvelen, an iconic office project we are developing in Sweden, will use as much energy on average as its solar panels and wind turbines produce. Innovations in energy technology – including our recent partnership with Saule Technologies to uniquely create solar energy for our commercial development projects – are another case of steps we can take to address the earth’s future.
When discussing the overall future economic outlook for the world, there was quite a bit of optimism about a continuation of the current strong macroeconomic performance in many leading markets. However, economic progress must be coupled with societal progress. That link is a fundamental part of Skanska’s Profit with Purpose business plan. I am confident that the values that guide our company will shape positively our contribution to society moving forward.
In a world that is becoming increasingly more turbulent, I take solace in the idea that multi- stakeholder discussions like those at the WEF will guide us in the right ways moving forward. We see across the board that all industries are borrowing from each other: to succeed in this future world, we need diverse perspectives, fruitful discussions and shared objectives. With this we can build a common future. With this we can build for a better society. We welcome that approach.