by Kena David, BCCI Sustainability Manager
This year’s Living Future unConference’s theme, Authenticity + Action, focused on taking a look at the wounds of the world and what we are doing to heal them. Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI ) and keynote speaker, kicked off the conference with this year’s four-letter word, a word that we should all be mindful of throughout the conference: FAIL. This was shocking, especially for those of us in the sustainability world, revealing to us how we fall short of the goals set forth by ILFI. Her message was that we must acknowledge our shortcomings and not dwell on them in order to focus on how we can change our approach to make a difference in our own lives and within our business. To improve initiatives, we must look at our current state.
Two of the primary values of ILFI are social justice and community. The JUST program was created by ILFI as a transparency platform to help organizations assess their operations, policies, and financial and community investments. At BCCI, our journey with JUST began in 2014, reviewing our existing company policies and financials to benchmark our current state of social justice, equity, and stewardship.
This year’s unConference featured a track with sessions focused on equity, including “Taking Action to Advance Social Equity in the Workplace” in which I spoke about BCCI’s JUST Label. The panel consisted of early adopters of the JUST program who shared what changes they have made since becoming a JUST organization. Our own experience with JUST has resulted in improvements to a number of company policies and procedures.
For BCCI, benchmarking has been the most valuable benefit to pursuing the JUST Label. It gives companies the opportunity to assess current social justice measures, quantify them, and make objective decisions to optimize future efforts. For example, at BCCI we took a second look at our Charitable Giving activities, as that is an area that significantly contributes to our company culture. Through obtaining our JUST Label and analyzing how well we performed in Stewardship, we were able to quantify our current efforts, improve future charitable giving, and align the goals of our Community Builders committee, an internal group committed to supporting the communities in which we work through volunteering and fundraising.
One other area in which we are looking to improve is Safety. As a general contractor, we have an excellent safety record, with an experience modification rating well below industry standard. However, the way in which Safety was measured by JUST, with all industries measured equally, our score was on the lower end of the scale. In our resubmission to renew our JUST Label, the JUST Program Manager realized that the difference between recordable incidents to cases with a job transfer, restriction, or days away from work was significant; and therefore, adjusted our stats for Safety to reflect our 12+ months of no serious injuries.
Resonating with the unConference’s theme of Authenticity + Action, BCCI is not only interested in documenting our efforts as a JUST organization, but also how we can improve on our policies and future initiatives. In the session I was a part of, both the panelists and the audience shared ideas on how organizations can push to grow and increase their commitments to social justice and equity in the workplace. As BCCI prepares to renew our JUST Label again later this year, we are working to gather and disclose even more information about gender equality to continue to improve equity and diversity. As a JUST organization, BCCI will continually strive for authenticity and transparency to bring and to maintain social equity in our workplace.
The International Living Future Institute is part nonprofit, part think-tank and part regenerative design framework. The institute’s most prominent rating system, the Living Building Challenge (LBC), has congruent aspirations to other systems. Like LEED, LBC strives to reduce our impact on the environment by encouraging commissioning and efficient water fixtures. Parallel to WELL, LBC underlines the importance of human health in facilitating healthy lifestyle choices and less toxic material selection.
The ILFI and LBC, however, move past LEED and WELL in beckoning a paradigm shift in how we consider green building. Instead of innovating within established norms, the breakouts, keynotes and networking sessions at Living Future were oriented around building in ecologically and socially restorative ways. The ILFI is interested in how structures can enhance and restore systems in communities, whether it involves water cycles, embodied carbon in materials, urban agriculture or energy storage. We spent several days discussing ways in which buildings could be viewed as habitats for humans, and contribute rather than take from local geographies. The LBC’s framework allows designers, architects, and contractors to step outside of the box- striving towards constructing impressive buildings such as these:
Kern Center, Hampshire, NH: 46 acres dedicated to permanent conservation; 1.6 acres for organic farm production
Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Pittsburgh, PA: Embodied carbon in materials; net zero energy
ARCH | NEXUS, Sacramento, CA: Contribution to public bicycle infrastructure; net zero water