How Bechtel is Shaped by Symbiotic Relationship Between D&I and Sustainability

Against various chaotic situations, Bechtel has seized opportunities to lead the way for a more inclusive, equitable engagement, where multiple voices from its internal and external environments work in collaboration to shape the company's future.
Bechtel staff speaks at a conference
Courtesy: Bechtel
By | 11 min read

Founded in 1898, Bechtel Corporation is a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to the industry and government. This firm differentiated itself by the quality of its people and its relentless drive to deliver the most successful outcomes: it aligns its capabilities to its customers’ objectives to create a lasting positive impact.

Over more than 100 years, it has helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents. This process also has created jobs, grown economies, improved the resiliency of the world’s infrastructure, increased access to energy, resources, and vital services.

The Continuous Effort in Supporting Customer

Current customer achievements in transit, clean energy and the environment drove Bechtel’s success as global leader in engineering, procurement, and construction.

In 2019, the firm helped customers expand air and rail transit for millions of travelers, provide zero-carbon power for communities, and eliminate the environmental risks of hazardous waste, reinforcing its standing as a trusted engineering, procurement and construction partner to industries and governments. With $21.8 billion in total revenue; $9.6 billion in new project awards and $38.3 billion in backlog; Bechtel’s 2019 Annual Report showed the company closed 2019 in a strong financial position.

“The successes we had in 2019 were the result of close partnership and alignment with our customers,” said company Chairman and CEO Brendan Bechtel. “We thank our customers for choosing our people to help design and build projects that are changing the world for the better.”

Besides strengthening its commitment to the development of colleagues in the skilled crafts, with new apprentice programs and partnerships with organized labor unions, Bechtel also entered into many new partnerships with big name in 2019, which can be listed as:

  • NASA chose Bechtel to design, construct, and commission Mobile Launcher 2, which will be used to assemble and launch the next version of the Space Launch System rocket.
  • NextDecade and Cheniere called on Bechtel for new LNG facilities in the U.S.
  • The government of Serbia selected a Bechtel-ENKA joint venture to build the country’s first 5G-ready motorway.
  • Bechtel and General Motors began exploring the construction of a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
  • And a partnership with the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Côte d’Ivoire government to develop an infrastructure primary plan to generate sustainable economic growth and stability.

Over the last four years, the company has deployed nearly 250 innovations across 56 projects worldwide to enhance results for customers. Nearly all of these ideas came from Bechtel colleagues working at project sites, where they deliver creative solutions to real-world problems for customers virtually every day.

Bechtel leadership team in a tour at jobsite
Courtesy: Bechtel

Investments in operations, particularly through highly integrated and data-centric process, produced more efficient execution on half of its customers. These efforts contributed to this company’s goal to reduce project delivery costs by 20 percent and improve schedule performance by 30 percent.

Covid-19 and Bechtel’s Resilience

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bechtel continued to support its customers and strengthen the path forward. Despite various challenges, it still stood with its customers to drive progress, and achieved one of the best safety records ever.

“I want to thank Bechtel colleagues for demonstrating great resilience, partnering with one another and our customers to overcome many obstacles. I also want to thank our customers for entrusting us with their highest-impact projects,” said Chairman and CEO Brendan Bechtel.

“We are excited about the changes taking place in the market and are looking forward to working with customers who share our ambitions to deliver projects contributing to a cleaner, greener, safer, and fairer world,” said President and COO Craig Albert. “Last year, we brought our cost structure down considerably, making us more competitive. At the same time, we invested more in winning new work and building the competencies necessary to deliver that work. We have the wherewithal to deliver on our commitments to our customers.”

Bechtel achieved $17.6 billion in total revenue and $7.2 billion in new project awards in 2020. The company also approached its Diversity and Inclusion strategy with a new sense of urgency to accelerate the creation of an equitable workplace culture where colleagues can achieve their full potential and feel valued, respected, welcomed, and treated fairly.

Catalyst to Sustainability Development

As part of Bechtel’s commitment to contribute 100 ideas to support the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this company defines that ensuring inclusiveness and diversity (D&I) during project development is the key to ensure its growth.

At any given time, Bechtel is a partner on hundreds of projects worldwide – from initial planning and investment through start-up to operations its. Its projects are often industry firsts, and sometimes operate in challenging environments overcome by post-conflict issues, poverty, inequality, or lack of access to productive assets and opportunities, including natural ecosystems.

As each project is unique, and successful execution depends on its outcome to the table to customize solutions for tough problems, Bechtel defines its sustainable opportunities is to grow, and unleash new capabilities that make a positive difference to its customers as well as and the community.

“When we design and build a project, we are focusing on helping our customers create a lasting positive legacy that includes protecting the environment, creating economic growth and development, and partnering with communities.” – stated Bechtel in its website.

Bechtel staff in a technical training workshop
Courtesy: Bechtel

Sustainability is not the exclusive responsibility of a single person or function at Bechtel. Whether team members are located in the home office, on site with the construction delivery team, or as part of its supply chain, Bechtel consider sustainability to be part of everyone’s responsibilities. This approach brings unique viewpoints together, thereby enabling continuous improvement throughout project lifecycles. Here is Bechtel’s four pillars of sustainability drive its focus for sustainable outcomes in its work:

#1. Protect People and the Environment

Governments have the primary responsibility to protect human rights, however, businesses can also play a positive role. Bechtel recognizes that this would be a problem best tackled from diverse perspectives.

Bechtel has a strong commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace and protecting the environment, natural resources, and local communities that could be affected by project development. This philosophy is inherent in its approach to planning, designing, and constructing projects worldwide. To facilitate this approach, this company has established minimum Environmental, Safety and Health (ES&H) requirements that apply to all projects regardless of geographic location, giving its team best conditions to work.

In terms of Environment, Bechtel knows that building a sustainable future means having a relentless commitment to innovation. This company challenges itself to decarbonize every project while generating cost-efficiencies to bring greater value.

In fact, it truly has helped deliver pioneering renewable projects to help customers on their path to net zero, including landmark projects like Ivanpah, the largest solar farm of its time, and the 695-megawatt Keeyask Generating System. Ivanpah continues to reduce carbon emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year, while Keeyask, when completed, will provide clean, renewable, and reliable energy to 400,000 homes.

#2. Promote Economic Development

Sustained and inclusive economic growth can drive progress, create decent jobs for all, and improve living standards. Also, economic development has the potential to have a transformational impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

In the context of major projects, the strategy for economic development needs to go beyond buying locally and employing a local workforce. Bechtel believes that establishing partnership networks with the companies, governments, schools/universities, and training institutions where it works and agreeing on gaps, goals, and targets is the most effective way to manage expectations and stimulate long-term economic development.

In Gabon, for example, Bechtel developed a comprehensive national infrastructure plan to diversify the economy, advance the skills of the Gabonese people, and promote long-term sustainable growth. The plan went beyond building highways and bridges: it connected people and communities; expanded access to clean water, jobs, reliable power, and health services; and facilitated regional trade and commerce. The project brought together experts from some of the world’s most celebrated transport, energy, social, and urban projects to work with the Gabon Government and communities and help turn Le Gabon Emergent into a reality.

#3. Partner with Communities and Society

“Developing an honest, transparent dialogue and understanding perspectives, cultures, and goals are important steps for meaningful engagement that can lead to positive outcomes, including agreements that help communities manage the impacts and receive the benefits associated with project development.” – According to BSR – an organization of sustainable business experts that works with its global network of the world’s leading companies.

Inclusive, meaningful engagement is critical for Bechtel to build lasting and impactful projects, as well as to shaping and influencing decision-making throughout the project lifecycle. Each step throughout its project lifecycle must be more than just part of the end goal, but rather a piece of the community’s welfare and future development. The value of deep integration is in the engagement and relationship-building with impacted communities.

Bechtel engineers collaborate with kids at a trade show
Courtesy: Bechtel

Also, indigenous peoples have a strong socio-economic and spiritual connection to local lands and ecosystems for culture, identity, and traditional knowledge. Throughout the construction, it was important to acknowledge and recognize these connections and to keep local first nations people and traditional custodians informed and manage expectations.

For example, throughout the project lifecycle, the Bechtel’s partner Crossrail team worked hard to build and maintain constructive relationships with those in the surrounding community. The overarching goal was to not only complete the project on budget and schedule, but also build enduring relationships during construction that would continue into the operational phase.

#4. Pioneer through Innovation

“Some people are inherently more creative, but that does not mean creativity cannot be developed and strengthened in everyone.” – stated Bechtel. At Bechtel, innovation is clearly captured in in its Vision, Values, and Covenants, which is widely regarded within its organization as everyone’s responsibility.

This company’s innovators are encouraged and empowered to experiment and develop new solutions. Everyone participates and is challenged; innovation is not left to be the job or assignment of a select few. This is important because when everyone is challenged to solve problems with innovative solutions, the whole organization moves forward at an accelerated and sustainable rate.

In Bechtel, new technology is also combined with traditional community engagement activities to enable the community to visualize the future and understand what changes to expect as the project progressed. Through this engagement, the project team also benefited from gaining a greater understanding of the land and local environment to support project planning and execution.

The Bottom Lines

There are many examples of the symbiotic relationship between D&I and sustainability within Bechtel Corporation. Through those presences, Bechtel is seeing opportunities to lead the way for a more inclusive, equitable engagement, where multiple voices from its internal and external environments work in collaboration to shape the company’s future. Especially in the fluctuating context like recent years because of Covid-19, this company’s performances can be considered as valuable lessons for other business.

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