Edmonton-based Stantec on Following its Value to Grow Sustainably

Named as the fifth most sustainable company in the world in 2021, the company opts to remain nimble by focus on some core value. How does it remain position while its peers are struggling with the impacts of lockdown? Read on to discover!
Stantec female leader in a idea hackathon event
Courtesy: Stantec
By | 10 min read

Founded in 1954 as D. R. Stanley Associates in Edmonton, Alberta, now, Stantec Inc. has become an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry. The company provides services on projects around the world through over 22,000 employees operating out of more than 350 locations in North America and across offices in 6 continents internationally. Stantec’s story is the story of its relationships with its clients, and how this company sustainably improves the quality of life in communities around the world has given valuable lessons for business in such that field.

Innovative, but with Great Foundation

Business owners and executives often mistakenly assume that it is wrong to follow another company’s lead. Innovation is crucial, yet it also makes sense to learn from the successes of peers in the industry. In 1954, Don Stanley started Stantec as a one-person firm. Sixty-seven years later, few firms have diversified not only their services but their technology approach as quickly and effectively as Stantec. So, what stands behind this firm’s innovation?

#1. Clients: The Root of Diversification

At Stantec, the company has put its clients’ needs at the forefront of what it does and, as a result, it brings the tools to bear that will most effectively deliver for them.

“We have evolved our brand to better reflect who we are and what our clients and employees believe about us,” said Stantec former president and chief executive officer, Bob Gomes.

Positioning its role is to focus on community, creativity, and client relationships, this firm differentiates itself in its many market sectors by the long-term stick with clients. This Canada-based firm design with community in mind: it helps its clients meet the needs of the communities it collectively serves. By acting timely base on what clients need, not only can the firm continuously upgrade itself but also can growth sustainably.

“Here at Stantec, we value an inclusive and diverse workplace culture where we seek a broad range of perspectives and contributions to our industry—and the communities where we live and work. We recognize the value and advantages of diverse ideas within our communities.” – stated the representator of Stantec on mass media.

Stantec staff at the headquarter office
Courtesy: Stantec

This firm also provides platform to support the next generation of leaders and champions in the industry, which can typically take The Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship for example. The Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship is part of a broader commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion in its organization.

“We know that we must increase our focus on building the future talent pipeline and find more ways to support underrepresented populations in our industry. This scholarship program is just one example of our commitment to break through barriers to have an impact.” – The firm introduces on its website.

#2. Technology: The Key to Expansion

Stantec has been also implementing digital tools for decades in multiple different capacities, from early computer-aided design and rudimentary models to today’s sophisticated, data-rich models. Once again, its tech stack evolved out of responsiveness to the clients’ needs, finding the right set of software that worked well together to deliver efficiently in addition to designs that are impactful to their clients and their communities.

As technology has evolved rapidly, one of the most substantial pain points that it has significantly assisted is the collaboration between remote parties – especially in the case of international firm as Stantec. The firm credits its collaboration tools with not only being able to work on models with consistent content libraries and to share and collaborate easily with employees in other offices or other firms, but for itself as a company. These collaboration tools are even more critical with the majority of the staff working remotely, which can be widely seen today because of COVID-19 challenges. Fortunately, the Stantec’s early transition to cloud-based tools made that evolution quite straightforward.

Regarding the company’s technology roadmap, it is taking a comprehensive approach to map out a baseline workflow that serves as a departure point for all projects. No two projects are ever the same, but if all projects depart from the same baseline, it increases the chances that more projects work in a similar way that allows for greater familiarity with approach and ease of transition between projects.

Stantec staff in leadership workshop
Courtesy: Stantec

As new technologies continue to emerge, Stantec is always on the lookout for the next great tool that further streamlines its workflows. The first step in introducing any new technology into the company’s production environment is to do a comprehensive review of the tool to understand how it fits in, how it helps staff work better and to ensure that it meets the stringent security requirements. From there, Stantec starts with small pilot teams to thoroughly vet the software in a real-world scenario and then scale up as appropriate based on the context of the tool.

What Contributes to Stantec’s Sustainability?

Overcoming nearly 8080 companies, Stantec was named the fifth most sustainable company in the world and first in Canada by Corporate Knights, which released its 2021 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations rankings this January. It is remarkable that Companies in the Global 100 represent the top one percent of companies in the world on sustainability performance.

This distinction came less than a month after CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) awarded Stantec its technical classification of A- for the third year in a row, making Stantec the only engineering and design firm in the industry to earn an A- rating for the last three consecutive years.

“We are tremendously proud to be recognized in the top five of the top one percent of sustainable companies in the world and first in Canada,” said Gord Johnston, President and Chief Executive Officer of Stantec.

Having survived and strongly developed over nearly 70 years is not a straightforward story. To gain those achievements, Stantec has experienced various strategies. Let’s dip into more information on the firm’s sustainable initiatives, projects, and thought leadership can be seen on the company’s situation.

Factor #1: The Fundamentals of Community

Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why at Stantec, this firm always design with community in mind. It cares not only about the communities it serves, but also the internal community – where its employees dedicate.

“We’re designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.” – Stantec writes about itself on its website.

Stantec has an excellent team mentality culture. People here are always willing to help one another despite many commitments and an overall fast paced environment. This allows the team to assess what’s needed and connect their expertise. In other words, they appreciate nuances and envision what’s never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so they can collaborate toward a shared success.

It also cares about the health and wellness of the employees. This firm have designed competitive and flexible benefits plans and compensation programs that focus on Stantec employee. Its culture of living well extends beyond simply great health benefits: it offers wellness program that allows employees to participate in, and gain rewards for, wellness-related activities, including charitable, community-based fitness events.

Factor #2: The Involvement of Leadership

“Our leading track record on sustainability is the result of the deep commitment and exemplary leadership of our people across Stantec’s entire global operation. Our teams continue to enhance sustainability in our own operations while also helping clients set and achieve their sustainability goals.” – said Johnston.

According to Stantec’s executive board, the leadership engagement plays essential roles to firm’s success. If the leaders really see the value in merging the companies – or other activities – and live those values enthusiastically, their staff will see that and get excited.

Stantec project manager collaborate with team in a community project
Courtesy: Stantec

“Then it usually will be a success. In case there were failures, it was usually a case where the leadership thought this was a good idea, but when they really got into it, they realized it wasn’t what they expected. The way we acquire companies, we fully integrate them.” – said Gomes.

The leader teams are also who can see the boundless growth potential in some regions – which can provide the firm excellent opportunities to assess the needs of the market and connect its expertise and services. That is also the leadership culture at Stantec, not only in US headquarters but also in other regions.

“Together, with leaders like Joseph and Paul, we are finding an equilibrium of innovation, creativity, and trust, while upholding our unwavering commitment to design with community in mind,” said Joe Geller, senior vice president and Australia & New Zealand regional leader for Stantec.

Factor #3: Clean Revenue and Investment

Stantec’s clean revenue and clean investment (i.e., goods and services that have a clear environmental and social benefit) as determined by Corporate Knights was the highest in the consulting and professional services industry group. For 2020, the firm estimates that 49% of gross revenue was directly aligned to seven separate UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including: No. 6 Clean Water and Sanitation; No. 7 Affordable and Clean Energy; No. 9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; No. 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities; No. 13 Climate Action; No. 14 Life Below Water; and No. 15 Life on Land.

“We are glad to see Stantec demonstrating transparency and leadership by reporting revenues from projects that support the SDGs and encourage other companies to do the same.” said Ayman Chowdhury, Head of Secretariat, UN Global Compact Network Canada.

“As an industry leader in sustainability, we’re proud of our performance metrics, but we recognize our greater responsibility to push forward with additional action,” said Johnston.

Besides the highlighted project activity in business operating, this firm also committed to addressing climate change, as highlighted by its net-zero operations by 2030 pledge and its sustainable design leadership demonstrated in the project solutions it implements around the globe.

In United States, Stantec also helped Denver Water redevelop their 34.6-acre (14 hectare) complex to improve efficiency, functionality, security, and safety of their water utility operation.

Factor #4: Timely Response

Flexibility is one of the keychains to business resilience, facing the unpredictable disrupt. And Stacte did it well.

2020 challenged the world in an unprecedented way: in March, the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Stantec maintained business continuity by immediately mobilizing nearly all 22,000 employees to work remotely during the pandemic, under the rally cry “better together, even if we’re apart.”

Despite the pandemic, the company completed three acquisitions focused on environmental services and renewable energy, including an expanded presence in the Netherlands. Besides, Johnston argued that the firm’s ability to maintain revenues, profit margins and order book – in the COVID year – should be seen as the major victory.

Stantec recorded a -0.7% net revenue decline to $2.9B during the twelve months ending December 2020. While this is a marked slowdown from the 10.6% net revenue growth recorded in 2019 (EA 10-Mar-20) – it remains a good outrun for a year when many of its peers are struggling with the impacts of lockdown and other CV-19 ramifications.

The Bottom Lines

A big success is determined by many factors. By defining and focusing those factors right and in time, Stantec has successfully positioned itself as bright player in the design and consulting industry. Looking back on its history, constantly adapting the market change and being well-prepared for those changes to stand out are essential lesson learned.

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