Chandos Construction president Tim Coldwell has announced his firm’s commitment to be a net-zero operation by 2040 and further upped the ante with his Canadian competitors by urging them to stop shrinking from leadership on ESG issues.
The net-zero commitment from Chandos came Nov. 10, during a week when Coldwell was in Glasgow on the sidelines of the United Nations’ COP meeting and also attending the three-day Vision 2045 conference in Edinburgh.
“You’re either a leader or follower,” said Coldwell. “I’d rather be on the edge that’s leading. I think there’s a huge opportunity to do that in the construction industry.”
Coldwell continued, “There’s a huge lack of leadership in the construction industry. I just think that the construction industry tends to sit down and wait to be told what to do: ‘Give me a set of drawings to tell me what you want.’
“We as an industry have a great opportunity to step up and lead on our own. I don’t think enough people in our industry think that way.”
To launch its 2040 commitment, Chandos announced it has purchased UN-certified carbon credits to offset the carbon emissions generated by its 2020 operations.
“Certainly, it’s an expense so it comes out of the bottom line,” said Coldwell. “But I view it more as an investment. Our approach is to use carbon credits as a last resort and really focus on change in supply chain.”
Other elements of its carbon-reduction plan include committing to reduce its embodied carbon intensity by 15 per cent each year; planting 6,900 trees next year; using electric equipment on jobsites and electric vehicles in its fleet; continuing its waste-reduction program with a goal to divert a minimum of 80 per cent of waste from all projects; using mass timber on many of its projects; and collaborating with its supply chain partners to reduce operational carbon emissions.
“This is a massive, complex problem facing the construction industry,” said Coldwell. “Achieving net-zero emissions across our entire portfolio of projects will not be possible without long-term partnerships and commitments.”
Coldwell recently spoke at an Urban Land Institute ESG conference in Toronto where he discussed how his vision was influenced by his Indigenous heritage, and earlier in the fall Chandos announced it was implementing a mandatory vaccine policy.
The firm boasts of using integrated project delivery (IPD) on many projects, it has long been an advocate of the B Corp program, and it has been a champion of LEED and Passive House standards for many years.
Among recent and current projects, the mass-timber First Nations Technical Institute, to be built using IPD on a reclaimed site at the Tyendinaga Mohawk Airfield in Ontario, will be net-zero, and the College of the Rockies student housing project in Cranbrook, B.C. is the first multi-dwelling complex in Canada built to achieve Passive House certification.
“Social procurement is near and dear to my heart,” said Coldwell, who has assumed the additional title of climate leader on the Chandos team of climate ambassadors. “There’s just a huge opportunity for contractors that want to be active in social procurement.”
Explaining how his Indigenous heritage influences his thinking as Chandos president, Coldwell explained he thinks of the firm not as his company but “our company,” similar to the collective thinking of Indigenous Canadians.
“From an environmental standpoint, Indigenous people were the first environmentalists in the world. They view themselves as stewards of nature as opposed to a colonial worldview where nature is something to be conquered. I think that’s really powerful as well.”
The decision to align with EllisDon and PCL and adopt a full vaccine mandate for the firm’s employees was a natural extension of Chandos’s focus on using science and data to inform decisions, Coldwell said. The vaccine mandate was less an ESG conversation and more a safety conversation and an issue of client service.
“It’s very clear that vaccines are the right approach and we take that perspective,” he said,
“The science tells us to do it from a safety perspective, it is the right thing to do to protect the well-being of our employees and the folks that are on jobsites, and from the leadership mission.”