“Sustainability is a growth driver in competition”

Interview with Nikolaus Graf von Matuschka, member of the Executive Board and Director of Labor Relations at HOCHTIEF Aktiengesellschaft, who is also in charge of Corporate Responsibility:

Mr. von Matuschka, what does sustainability mean for HOCHTIEF the construction company?

For us, achieving corporate success without making an active contribution to society and the environment is unthinkable. In order to create long-term value, we integrate economics, ecology and corporate responsibility into our work. Unlike many companies, we have no mass production that is tied to a specific location, but produce unique structures all over the world with our construction projects. Whether it’s a road, tunnel, office building or a hospital, each project is different and has its own particular requirements right from the start. And that is where our sustainability work kicks in as well. Our maxim is that our work should result in maximum benefit and minimum damage for society and the environment.

Naturally, this means that there are Group-wide sustainability management requirements and standards. Sustainability is a strategic corporate principle at HOCHTIEF, and it is enshrined in all of our processes.

What do your clients think about this issue?

We’ve seen an interesting development in this regard. In recent years, sustainability has become far more important, and it is now an integral part of some business segments. Increasingly, our clients want economic, ecological and social factors to be in balance. Taking the certification systems in the area of high-rise construction, for example—the LEED standard in the USA, say, and the DGNB certificate in Germany—there has been huge change both across the market as a whole, and with regard to our clients’ requirements. New standards like these are now—with a short time-delay—also starting to appear in the infrastructure sector. We are certain that in a couple of years a large share of transportation infrastructure projects will be built on a sustainable basis. Our stakeholders confirm that, as a whole, a portfolio of sustainable services is becoming increasingly important.

Would you describe sustainability as a growth driver in your business?

Yes, one could certainly put it like that because in order to take a leading role in competition and meet rising demand, we must naturally offer the corresponding innovative products in our various business segments. We are developing energy-efficient and resource-conserving services—and are thus contributing to sustainable development. We started advocating green building at a relatively early stage, and have helped to shape this market. In the USA, we have been the leader in this segment for many years. Up to 2015, the Group’s sales for the “Green Building” segment alone amounted to over 5 billion euros.

Another example is Building Information Modeling (BIM), one of HOCHTIEF’s key areas of innovation: with virtual construction by means of a 3D computer-generated model, where issues such as time (4D model), costs (5D model) and further information can be factored in, building projects can be planned and sustainably designed in an optimal manner. HOCHTIEF recognized this potential early on and is seen as a pioneer in this area. Our US subsidiary Turner Construction alone has handled BIM projects worth in excess of 60 billion US dollars to date. Today BIM is now being demanded by clients in many countries, and we benefit here from our long-standing experience.

Sustainability produces a new dynamic overall. More and more clients will now only work with construction partners who can provide detailed information about occupational health and safety, corporate governance, resource consumption or climate protection. We benefit here from our commitment to sustainability.

What changes has this sustainability requirement brought about at HOCHTIEF?

For many years we have already been working continuously on making HOCHTIEF’s corporate activities sustainable. Sustainability is an ongoing process that is oriented to a number of factors. All of our stakeholders—be they investors, employees, subcontractors or local residents—have certain expectations of us, which we endeavor to fulfill as well as we can. That is why we align our objectives with our stakeholders’ requirements, and regularly check their relevance. In doing so, it is important to us that we are transparent: during the course of our regular reporting we publish figures and targets, and take part in ratings such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the CDP. That, incidentally, is an important indicator for investors in a fast-growing market for sustainable investments.

New requirements naturally arise out of current developments in the area of sustainability. For instance, we have made a clear commitment to the Paris climate targets, and will be applying further measures to cut CO2 emissions—both internally and in our project business. That is why the commitment of our employees is crucial to HOCHTIEF’s sustainability success.

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