Eva Gkenakou, Sustainability Director at Multiplex Construction Europe, explains how empowering businesses increases the transition to a circular economy.

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Highlights of the discussion:

  • Public value is everything one can do to be part of the community, be happy, healthy, and prosperous. Businesses are set up to offer public value. Everything they produce or service covers human needs. the challenge today is to continue to address human needs without damaging other needs.
  • Environmental and social responsibility is intrinsically linked to economic sustainability. The most successful businesses have emphasised the importance of their values and ethics. Beyond the narrative, however, what makes a company truly ethical and sustainable is its behaviour and actions on a daily basis. If we take the example of Multiplex, a global construction company, what will make a difference with competitors is the way it reduces carbon emissions, addresses environmental challenges, as well as trafficking of human beings.
  • A sustainability narrative empowers businesses and people to achieve change. A good narrative can trigger the power people have in their daily decisions and show them how to contribute to public value. Let’s take the example of a good architect who has embedded a sustainability strategy in his project. This first step is excellent. But we all need to go further and think of the impact we make on carbon emissions, on the experience of the end users, make sure all materials come from responsible supply chains, and on whether there is a risk of human trafficking in our project.
  • Our job is not done. But we have seen a serious change in the public’s expectations thanks to Fridays for Future. Alternatives today, so it is mandatory to all of us to embrace the circular economy spirit, and use materials that can be re-used.
  • The UK has adopted the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and has already seen a positive impact on corporations. By putting pressure on companies’ reputation and asking them to annually report on the due diligence done in their ecosystem (core business + supply chains), the UK has launched a transformational effect although there is no consensus on what modern slavery is.
  • Construction sites employ many vulnerable people around the world, and in the UK as well. Migrants often do not know their rights and can easily become victims of criminals who take control of them. Measures are put in place to control this phenomenon and take responsibility of the values implemented on sites and in the supply chains. Suppliers often lack awareness of the importance of the phenomenon and of solutions to combat modern slavery. Training is essential all the way down to supply chains.
  • This new approach in compliance is worth the trouble. Companies tend to develop stronger relationships with their suppliers and their customers. Being closer to society and developing public value enables them to sustain their business and to keep their talents.

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