At Fluor Corp., a Fortune 500 company that delivers engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance and project management to clients around the world, sustainability is becoming increasingly important. The company views sustainability as meeting the needs of clients while conducting business in a socially, economically, ethically and environmentally responsible manner.
Fluor also recognizes some of the business benefits of sustainability. It can make a company stand out to clients who need help in meeting their own sustainability goals. Recognition as a leader in practicing sustainability can burnish the company's image in communities where it does business, positively impacting the company's brand and the reputation. Future employees often are attracted to companies that set high standards for sustainability. Most importantly, when sustainability is broadly practiced, it benefits people and the world — and companies that embrace sustainability can become role models for other corporations.
Nancy Kralik is a director of Fluor's corporate health, safety and environmental function and is the company's HSE global excellence leader. She also is a member of Fluor's Sustainability Committee, which evaluates opportunities for the company to continuously improve its sustainability performance. She shares her thoughts on sustainability in this one-on-one interview.
Q: Do you see sustainability as a social concept or a business concept or both?
Kralik: Sustainability is a social concept, a business concept and much more. Let me explain.
Sustainability is integrated into the way we do business. Our stakeholders expect us to operate in a sustainable way and there is a direct link between Fluor's sustainability and our clients achieving their own sustainability goals.
Socially, sustainability affects communities where we work and live and the impact we have on our neighbors. For example, there is an impact on society when Fluor employees mentor students, train workers in South Africa or put computers in secondary schools.
Environmentally, there are things we can do in our offices and at project sites that directly affect how we and our clients impact the environment. Things like efficient use of energy and considering the environmental footprint when we design and construct facilities for our clients.
Economically, we directly impact communities where we work and live when we employ people at Fluor, hire local labor and purchase supplies locally. All of these things help the local community by bolstering the economy. This is even more important today, given the overall state of the global economy.
Q: Is sustainability a competitive driver for Fluor?
Kralik: Absolutely. More and more, Fluor is asked about our sustainability programs in requests for proposals and prequalification requests. Clients and potential clients want to know how we would implement sustainability on their projects. EPC (engineering procurement and construction) companies that have the best sustainability performance can set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.
Q: How does Fluor gauge its sustainability performance?
Kralik: While there are only a few metrics that directly impact a company like Fluor since we own very few capital structures other than office buildings, we still employ the Global Reporting Initiative's (GRI) guidelines for our reporting purposes.
Also, we report our HSE statistics and compare our performance with other companies. Our statistics for lost time cases and recordable cases are among the best in the industry. These metrics demonstrate how much we value the safety of our employees, contractors, and subcontractors. They also underscore the success of the programs we have in place to ensure that employees return home safely every day and that we protect the environment.
In my opinion, a strong company will provide value to the communities where its employees live and work because it will continue to be a place of employment and stimulate the economy in places where we do business. A strong company also provides value to many other stakeholders.
Q: What are the challenges and opportunities for Fluor regarding sustainability? How does the company respond?
Kralik: Probably the biggest challenge is integrating sustainability into how we do business overall. Over the past 20 years, safety and then HSE became more and more important to Fluor and now HSE is ingrained in our culture. We need to get to the same point with sustainability — where it is top of mind with everyone in Fluor.
Culture change is always challenging and there is often misunderstanding and resistance. We're making incremental progress, but it adds up over time.
Q: What is Fluor doing to raise the bar on its sustainability performance?
Kralik: We're active on many fronts to strengthen our performance. We have increased the content and tools available in the sustainability section in Knowledge On-Line, the company's intranet knowledge-sharing source, which is an important collaboration tool for employees around the globe.
Also, we recently published a company-wide sustainability manual. It's designed to be used globally on all of our project sites as a how-to guide in implementing sustainability practices across our businesses and reinforces that there are always opportunities to act in a more sustainable way. It focuses on sustainable project design, procurement, construction and operation and maintenance. It's also a guide for sustainable office policies and procedures. We expect all projects and all business lines will value and use its systematic approach.
Significantly, in 2008, Fluor published its inaugural Sustainability Report, which as I mentioned used the GRI reporting guidelines. The 2009 Report is now available at http://www.fluor.com and we maintain a sustainability section on our corporate Web site. All of these great resources help increase the understanding of how Fluor's sustainability strategy is being played out around the world.
Q: How and when is sustainability integrated into Fluor projects?
Kralik: In a perfect world, integration should begin as soon as we make a project proposal, where we explain how we address sustainability. It should also be incorporated into the design and construction of client facilities.
It's most beneficial for sustainability to be a key factor from the beginning of a project. Integrating sustainability as a project moves down the road is not as efficient and effective.
Q: The term “carbon footprint” is becoming prominent in environmental discussions. What is a carbon footprint and does Fluor have one?
Kralik: Every individual and every company has a carbon footprint, which is the impact they have on the environment due to carbon emissions. For example, cars and planes emit exhaust, which adds compounds to the air in the form of emissions. Flying or driving less can improve your personal carbon footprint.
Fluor's carbon footprint is defined by the energy we use to heat, air condition and light our buildings. It's defined by the electricity we use for our computers and cooking facilities in our cafeterias. Emissions generated by the fleet of vehicles we use and the air travel that we do on behalf of our company are some other examples of what constitutes Fluor's carbon footprint.
As we discussed in our Sustainability Annual Report, we're in the process of calculating the carbon footprints for our facilities. We have also provided information on our carbon footprint to the Carbon Disclosure Project, which is a third-party organization that collects this information for companies and publishes it about once a year.
The data we generate is very useful in benchmarking our performance and continuously improving Fluor's carbon footprint and our sustainability efforts.
Q: Can individual Fluor employees impact the company's sustainability performance or its carbon footprint?
Kralik: Every decision we make — whether to walk to work or turn off lights as we leave a room or making sure the computer is turned off at night affects our carbon footprint.
Getting involved with charitable organizations is a social aspect of sustainability. Recently, Fluor participated in National Engineers Week globally, and in the United States, executives from many different offices spoke to eighth-grade classes about engineering.
In addition, the ideas that each individual brings to the design or construction of projects and to facility maintenance activities are key to implementing sustainability for Fluor and our clients. These ideas present the potential to influence design and construction activities as we build for tomorrow.
Mary Dunlap attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., and received her B.A. in English in 2007. She began her career with Fluor the same year in the government group communications department. In 2008, Dunlap was offered her current job in health, safety and environmental communications. In her position, she writes articles, publishes a quarterly newsletter and promotes a healthy, safe and environmentally friendly working atmosphere.