Category Archives: CSR

corporate social responsibility

30 CSR Pro’s to Follow in 2015 …

This is interesting. Triple Pundit have published their list of 30 CSR Pro’s to follow in 2015 authored by @Mary_Mazzoni


Whilst being honoured to be included within such a great community, I was particular interested in the fact that all three of the UK people listed (Jim McClelland @SustMeme, Mike Barry @planamikebarry and myself @Fairsnape) are all connected with the property or built environment sector.

Is this indicative of the change in construction, property and built environment approach to CSR, moving away from a ‘donate and volunteer’ context to one of addressing the real social and environmental responsibilities of an organisation and of the industry. Further that we can and indeed should learn from other organisations and thought leaders within other sectors.

It also illustrates the power of social media and of twitter in particular to learn and share. Within the triple pundit list there are a number of tweet chats (for example #CSRChat hosted by @susanmcp1 and our #sustldrconv Sustainable Leadership Conversation* that I co-host monthly with @AndreaLearned who is also listed)

I have commented often that I see tweet chats as the new benchmarking. No longer do we need to go through ‘benchmarking protocols’ to understand innovations and improvements elsewhere, we simply find the chat appropriate to our needs, join in engage and learn.

To help in following the CSR accounts listed by Triple Pundit I have created a twitter list here – please do follow or subscribe – if you really want the leading edge thinking and commentary on CSR you couldn’t do much better!

* a good number of #sustldrconv guests and friends (for eg @PeggyatKC @KayakMediaTweet @costrike @AmanSinghCSRalso feature within this list, which reinforces the fact we are on target with our conversation series.

JUST: a social justice label for construction …

Taking built environment sustainability deeper into the responsibility agenda, the International Living Future Institute are launching (Oct 2013) a new and important transparency initiative for the built environment to sit along side the Living Building Challenge and Declare. Just will provide clients, specifiers and procurers with ‘a view of how participating organisations treat their employees and where they invest their profits’

Just will cover the important areas of gender and ethnic diversity, salary equity, gender pay equity, community involvement, responsible investing and more, taking it beyond other programmes in the built environment sector. (And arguably areas that the UK Considerate Constructors Scheme should be addressing?)

The Press Release from ILFI reads:

In today’s global economy, it’s difficult to know what your consumer dollars are really supporting. JUST gives you an insider’s view of how participating organisations treat their employees and where they invest their profits. JUST works seamlessly with the International Living Future Institute’s Declare™ materials label and the next iteration of the Living Building Challenge™ (Version 3.0 — coming spring 2014).

By providing participating companies with a clear, elegant and informative equity ‘nutrition-label’, JUST aims to transform the marketplace through transparency and open communication. It aligns with the Institute’s Declare™ materials label to provide a holistic picture of both the products a company produces and the human story behind those products.
To participate in this voluntary disclosure program, an organization must submit documentation that asks for in-depth information about twenty distinct aspects of workplace equity and justice.
We’ll be launching the JUST label and searchable database FALL 2013. Join us in this critical initiative!

A low carbon diet for construction boards


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 

On Patagonia

Since the early ’80’s Patagonia has featured in my life, initially in respect of climbing hardware and outdoor clothing and latterly as a real source of CSR, Corporate Social Responsible inspiration. I recall my first purchase, and a still a winter favourite, a Synchilla fleece jacket, produced from recyled plastic bottles, and this in the 80’s,

It is fantastic to see how the influence of Patagonia, Chouinard and contempories has now reached into built environment sustainability, as evidenced at the recent excellent Green Vision Building CSR event in Leeds.

Patagonia stores are still a magnet for me, in the UK, and from Chamonix to Banff. But it has been the Patagonia catalogue, published a few times each year with the seasons, that has in no small part shaped my sustainability thinking, through stunning photographs and excellent narratives from Yvon Chouinard, Rick Ridgway and Patagonia Ambassadors, It is from here I developed a passion for connecting sustainability thinking with nature, linking love of outdoor exploration with business excellence.

No better is this illustrated than in the Spring/Summer 2012 edition …

“we learned early the need for good quality … and environmental consciousness, because we’re part of the natural world from where we draw our strength”

If ever you see a Patagonia catalogue – pick it up and be inspired by the photographs and narratives.

( the Becoming Wild text in the image above can be found here )

The Responsible Company a great quote on Sustainability from Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley:

“A word about a word we have chosen to use as little as possible: Sustainability.  Its a legitimate term that calls us not to take more from nature than we can give back. But we do take more than we give, we do harm nature more than we help it. We have no business applying the the word sustainable to business activity until we learn to house, feed, clothe and entertain ourselves – and fuel the effort – without interfering with natures capacity to regenerate itself and support a rich variety of life. We are a long long way from doing business … and no human economic activity is yet sustainable”

How is your corporate sustainability or CSR thinking aligned to nature?

Who inspires and influences your thinking?

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Heros and Texts for a future Built Environment based on #CSR

“suddenly the air smells much greener now”

Listening to ‘These Streets’, lyrics by Paolo Nutini summed up the brilliant, inspiring Green Vision conference in Leeds – exploring CSR within the built environment.

A mix of talks, presentations, round table discussions and pecha kuchas from Mel Starrs, Eden Brukman, Tamara Bergkamp, Eddie Murphy, Martin Brown, Faye Jenkins, Claire Walker, Rick Hamilton, Mark Warner, Pedro Pablo Cardoso-Castro, Andy Ainsworth, Paula Widdowson and many others showed that there is real emergence and a future for a Built Environment founded on social responsibility principles.

The air smells much greener …

We heard of excellent progress being made by individuals, projects and organisations on the CSR journey, and how behind these are great influential thinkers, often outside of the sector, many, unsurprisingly, related to the ‘outdoor’ sector.

Many of the speakers were enthusiastic in sharing CSR heros and recommended CSR reading. So here, as a summary, or reading list are those mentioned during the day. I wonder how many of these are on the reading list within design, construction and fm education? (Book titles link to Amazon)

Yvon Chouinard

Rock climber, environmentalist and outdoor industry businessman, noted for his contributions to climbing, climbing equipment and the outdoor gear business. His company @Patagonia is widely acclaimed for its environmental and social focus. According to Fortune magazine, Chouinard is arguably the most successful outdoor industry businessman alive today.

The Responsible Company What we have learnt in the first 40 years at Patagonia by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley (see my blog)

Let My People Go Surfing Yvon Chouinard – Probably the ‘must read book’ to understand CSR in Business

(On my blog: How can construction learn from Patagonia?)

Ray Anderson

Founder of Interface Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of modular carpet for commercial and residential applications and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. He was known in environmental circles for his advanced and progressive stance on industrial ecology and sustainability.

Ray was was posthumously awarded an Outstanding Achievement award at this year’s Guardian Sustainable Business Awards in 2012. (There is a related, must watch, video here: John Elkington describing the work and legacy of Ray Anderson)

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009) Later released in paperback as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist in 2011.

Paul Hawken

An environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author. Ray Anderson of Interface credited The Ecology of Commerce with his environmental awakening. He described reading it as a “spear in the chest experience”, after which Anderson started crisscrossing the country with a near-evangelical fervor, telling fellow executives about the need to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Hawken’s book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999) coauthored with Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, popularized the now-standard idea of natural capital and direct accounting for ecosystem services, a theme revisited by Rio +20 and likely to become more mainstream across the built environment.

Janine Benyus

Her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature defines Biomimry as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems”. Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a “Model, Measure, and Mentor” and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry. Key thinking in the Living Building Challenge principles, as is

E O Wilson

Edward Osborne Wilson an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author. In the mid 80’s developed the concept of Biophilia, the connection between humans and nature, which translates into architecture and the built environment as comfort, well being and productivity through exposure to natural light and natural surrondings or imagry.

Anita Roddick

Dame Anita Roddick, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop, a cosmetics company producing and retailing beauty products that shaped ethical consumerism The company was one of the first to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. Roddick was involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues, including involvement with Greenpeace andThe Big Issue.

John Elkington

John Elkington @volansjohn is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. He is currently the Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans, a future-focused business working at the intersection of the sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation movements

His latest book The Zeronauts, Breaking the Sustainability Barrier describes many of todays inspirational leaders : “Just as our species broke the Sound Barrier during the 1940s and 1950s, a new breed of innovator, entrepreneur, and investor is lining up to break the Sustainability Barrier”

Jorgen Randers

2052: What will the world look like in 2052

Jeff Hollender,

Jeffrey Hollender is an American businessperson, entrepreneur, author, and activist. He was well known for his roles as CEO, co-founder, and later Chief Inspired Protagonist and Executive Chairperson of Seventh Generation Inc., the country’s largest distributor of non-toxic, all-natural cleaning, paper and personal care products.

Gary Hirshberg,

Gary Hirshberg is chairman and former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt producer, based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Now part of the Danone group.

Published in January 2008, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World is a book about socially minded business that calls on individuals to realize their power to make a difference in the marketplace, while doing business in ways that adhere to a multiple bottom line – one that takes into consideration not only finance, but the environment and health as well.

Jeffrey Swartz,

Jeffrey Swartz is the former president and CEO of The Timberland Company an organization that believes that doing well and doing good are inextricably linked. Timberland’s commitment is to reducing global warming and preserving the outdoor environment.

David and Claire Hieatt,

Founders of Howies a clothing company based in Cardigan Bay, Wales produces eco-friendly T-shirts, jeans and sportswear, and aims to have ethically correct practices. Howies use natural fabrics as alternatives to petrochemical-derived modern fabrics. Examples include organic cotton, Merino wool and recycled cotton. Howies T-shirts often have images or slogans with political or environmental themes

Dee Hock

Dee Ward Hock is the founder and former CEO of VISA , described systems that are both chaotic and ordered, and used for the first time the term “chard” and chaordic,combining the words chaos and order.


Over to you –

Follow the discussion on twitter with the #GVis2012 hashtag.

Who are your CSR Heros and CSR Texts to add to this Built Environment inspirers list?

What additions or comments would you make to the entries above?

A full record (video, blog, tweets, presentations, storify) of the Building CSR Event is being curated on the be2camp event page here.

Construction CSR Makeover: can construction learn from Patagonia?

CSR and Transparency seem to be linked buzz words in the world of sustainability at the moment.

Fuelled perhaps by an increase in CSR generally, a growing awareness of social media ‘whistleblowing’, the potential of the Social Value Act and a desire to improve or differentiate sustainability offering in bids and delivery on contracts.

Our Green Vison tweetchat last night concluded construction is ready for and in need of a CSR make over. But where to start? One of the suggestions was to listen to and learn from other sectors.

As if on cue, this  morning I was aleretd to Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles update.  A grand example of merging CSR, Supply Chain Management, Transparency, Storytelling and using social media to stitch it all together

For our tenth season we have completly revamped the Footprint Chronicles to show a world map of every factory that makes Patagonia clothing and gear, profiles of the social and environmental of key suppliers and fabric mills and profiles of key  independent partners who vet  social and environmental practices throughout our supply chain

The Footprint Chronicles® examines Patagonia’s life and habits as a company. The goal is to use transparency about our supply chain to help us reduce our adverse social and environmental impacts – and on an industrial scale. We’ve been in business long enough to know that when we can reduce or eliminate a harm, other businesses will be eager to follow suit.

View the map 

A great place to start learning where CSR in Construction can go …

Indications that this is possible are emerging. With similar end game intentions, our own constructco2 which maps construction phase carbon emissions, transport and the project supply chain foorprint and Sourcemap a crowdsourced directory of product supply chains and carbon footprints – see for example CITRIS Builing

Your comments are most welcome, engage in the CSR debates on twitter @fairsnape or get in touch to discuss further.  We are helping many construction organisations measure their carbons and re-evaluate their approach to CSR.

Five Emerging Themes in Construction CSR

A recent CSR in construction workshop ran some very interesting discussions on just what CSR in construction is, what it could be and what it should be.

There emerged a number of salient, central themes:

CSR is not a badge, a new lick of paint or indeed something to do to generate responses in bids and PQQ’s to win work, but is something that goes deep into the organisation. It is the brand, image and reputation of the business, in many ways CSR is part of the DNA upon which the business will grow and flourish. Words such as heart or soul of the business become relevant.

CSR thinking will challenge existing business models. We have moved from a era of CSR being bad news, not seen as a business issue, to one of commitment to being responsible and doing good whilst running a business. The challenge businesses may now face is moving forward, how to make a construction business of out doing good, where social responsibility is the vision and core of the organisation. Combining triple line thinking in an integrated strategy and integrated reporting approach will give new perspectives on construction businesses.

CSR approaches cannot be simply imposed top down. Whilst needing strong leadership vision, CSR requires real engagement of all staff and indeed all those who work for the business through the supply chains. Empowering managers to lead on CSR and engaging people in sharing CSR good news stories will become essential.

CSR transparency means all aspects of construction are increasingly on open public display. We cannot put one message to clients in bids, another to staff and still allow conflicting, or perhaps irresponsible practices to exist. The recent Goldman Sachs is a timely reminder that we are in the Age of Damage as described David Jones in Who Cares Wins

The power and potential of social media is yet to be realised. On one hand it presents a phenomenal tool for sharing news, keeping informed and engaging with clients and partners, on the other hand it can be the Achilles heel, rapidly broadcasting irresponsible practices or intentions. Having an appropriately positive approach to Social Media with guidelines or codes of practice for use by staff in the business and on projects will increasingly become high priority.

Supporting built environment organisations on developing CSR strategies it is encouraging to see a real desire for strategic CSR approaches that go beyond the volunteering and sponsorship models. If you wish to engage in conversations on CSR in construction follow and join me on twitter @fairsnape, subscribe to or share this blog post, or get in touch via

PQQ Secrets: Listening to the voice of the customer

For PQQ responses to have chance of success they need to address the requirements and aspirations of the client and project.

They also need to differentiate from the competition. So when a client organisation presents on how to differentiate at bid stage, you should be on to a winner.

But of course it’s an ever iterative game, and you will need to be better than those who also hear the customers tips for bidding.

At last weeks CSkills Forum in Salford, Urban Vision Partnership presented what they look to as differentiators when marking and selecting PQQ’s, either as direct bids, as part of a consortia or within a supply chain. Urban Vision’s overall remit is to manage, protect, maintain and enhance development within the city.

Key Differentiating Factors:

– Creation of community benefit

– Workforce development

– Added value and innovation

– Environmental performance, eg 14001 and CO2 monitoring

– Health and Safety practices, eg 18001

– An IMS (Integrated Management System) approach to quality, sustainability and safety

How many of these can you honestly tick as being well established, or well in development, within your organisation, to articulate within bids?

Many of these have been part of the construction business improvement agenda for many years now, certainly since Egans Rethinking Construction back in 1998, whilst others are relatively new as Methods of Modern Construction Management.

Through fairsnape we can help with advice or support in these areas, in practice or in bid articulation. Why not have a conversation? You can follow and join me on twitter @fairsnape, subscribe to or share this blog post, or get in touch.

Construction #CSR Gen X + Y and a desire to ‘do good’

As part of background reading for construction CSR / Social Media project, focused on employers looking to attract young people into the industry, I came across a fascinating article in the Canadian Globe and Mail, GenY seeks responsible employer who listen.

It struck a real chord with an expression that had been forming over the last few weeks, that “if we dont get sustainability, social media and CSR right then young people will not want to work in construction. But they will want to work for other sectors” A compelling reasons why all this starts in the boardroom both as an organisaiton continuity or survival issue and forward thinking, growth and innovation matter.

And it is very much a social media matter, Gen X and Y will use social media to broadcast negative thoughts and obersvations, as well as positives. (The slide comes from a recent constructing social media presentation)

Corporate social responsibility ranks “quite highly” for Generation Y workers …

“The challenge is that Gen Ys hold organisations to their CSR policy. If they join and they feel that the organisation is not living up to the policy, they will become disengaged, leave the organisation and, even worse, will use social media to broadcast their negative thoughts.”

There are a number of other factors that make a company an employer of choice for Gen Y, such as: meaningful, engaging work and the opportunity to build skills; access to the latest technology; working with friends and co-workers in the same age group; a collaborative work environment and management style, and an organisational capacity for fun.

So what turns them off?

  • Stodgy, traditional companies – “they will join and stay for the money for a while, but then will leave looking for greener pastures.”
  • Managers who are not interested in them as people, or their career progression.
  • No clear line of sight between what they are doing and the big picture.
  • “When the cost of doing anything [long hours] outweighs the benefits [work-life balance].”

Understanding CSR in Construction

Perhaps we need to clarify what we understand by CSR in Construction?

Whether we mean Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainable Responsibility or even Carbon Social Responsibility is somewhat irrelevant and I am comfortable with all definitions. What is important of course is how we approach, manage and embed CSR within the organisation.

Probably one of the least effective CSR approaches would be one that is scattergun, uncoordinated and of a tick box nature to enable us just to tick the CSR box for bids, company literature and websites.

CSR starts with understanding the organisations impact, on social, sustainability, education, employment, on the planet, on communities and more. Once that impact is understood, measures can be planned and implemented to minimise or eliminate those impacts. CSR needs real  commitment to integrate responsible practices into daily organisational  operations to address impact.

CSR, as I recently quoted on twitter it is about striving for zero impact and a closed loop system that addresses resources used.

Sources of CSR inspiration I suggest delegates on my CSR events and workshops check out, as they  have significance within construction, include

Yvon Chouinard and the essential reading: Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman""  (  that includes a chapter on how Patagonia as client extends it’s CSR and  environmental values to construction projects.

Secondly the late Ray Anderson, (Interface Flooring) probably the most influential CSR and Sustainability thinker in the built environment. His Mount Sustainability and Zero Mission thinking has inspired many.   Check out Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How Interface proved that you can build a successful business without destroying the planet""  (

And  for current CSR thinking within the built environment and beyond, check out  the news feeds and articles from leading CSR thinkers on CSRWire.

A recent article written for CSRWire explored the link between CSR, carbon management and localism within construction and FM which fired an interesting debate on a possible new thinking for CSR – Carbon Social Resposnibility

I await to see who will be the first construction organisation in the UK to become members of what I view as the best commitment possible to CSR – the 1% for the Planet movement. That’s one percent of turnover going to offset the impact your organisation may have on the environment. Commitment yes, but perhaps just a fraction of the cost of really addressing construction impact.

(This post was written in connection with the linkedin CSR in Construction group)