A low carbon diet for construction boards

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Question for you:who on your board is really championing sustainability and the low carbon agenda?

Board members, as Lucy Marcus reminded us at construcTALKs, need to balance continuity with change, to embrace the changes in technology.

From my experience in (small-medium) construction organizations, boards are too focused on looking back at performance, rather than forward; and when looking forward, tend to do so with the risk-eye of past problems. And sustainability is often only discussed when necessary, as part of an ISO 14001 project or incident issue. Too often, as 14001 sits with Health and Safety, sustainability takes a back seat. Rarely do construction boards view sustainability as a critical strategic, opportunity issue, rather than simply one to be dealt with at project level.

Yet the world is moving forward, and increasingly so towards a low carbon environment and economy. Only those with proven performance and attitude of low carbon approaches may well survive—all the more reason to have board members champion change. Non-execs tend to provide the independent financial and governance role, but increasingly they should drive the organization towards change.

Perhaps it’s because construction boards are slow to embrace the communication power social media can bring that they remain out of touch. I do wonder whether we had the same issue when other, now well-established, means of communication emerged; did we resist telephones, faxes, conference calls and emails as we seem to be doing with social media?

If construction boards were more diverse and embraced a wider range of views and outlooks, through board composition and social media awareness, the transition to a low carbon construction economy would be more successful.

Construction boards really do need to embrace social media potential, not just as a tool for others in the organization, but for the board itself, tuning into discussions and commentaries on emerging standards and legislation and sharing what is working or not. The likes of Twitter, Linkedin groups, blogs, forums and news aggregators are abundantly rich with low carbon and sustainable construction information.

This is all vital client, competitor and industry intelligence that enables boards to move their organization forward – and, through embracing social media in this manner, become role models for its mature use.

To quote from Lucy, boards need to be both Grounded and Stargazers.Are construction boards so grounded they go underground? Or do they at least from time to time stand on a hill and gaze the stars to wonder, then to understand what is out there?

This post originally appeared on CSRWire in April 2011 and savedhere from now defunct Posterous blog 

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