New concerns are shaking the construction industry, which is beginning to adjust its ways of doing things and take a sharper look at the repercussions of its actions on the environment and society. The desire to discuss this issue was palpable at a very popular conference last week in Montreal, showing that a change in perspective is taking place.
“The objective was to see if the sector became aware of the issues related to ESG factors, so everything related to the environment, social and governance,” said Francis Bissonnette, founder and chairman of the board of directors of Batimatech, a non-profit organization aimed in particular at promoting innovation and collaboration in the construction and real estate industry in Quebec.
He himself is very interested in these subjects. “In terms of governance, at Batimatech, we are equal, there is diversity,” he explains. At the same time, we push the reflection each time we invite speakers, to present women, young people, and thus work on our corporate social responsibility [CSR]. On the environmental level, we occupy a space and we optimize the places. We don’t hold congresses on the other side of the world, because it’s a lot of expense, of fuel. »
ESG factors and their influence on the performance of construction and real estate companies were at the heart of Petit Batimatech, a shortened version of the conferences usually presented, which took place in Montreal on March 21.
“Talking about ESG factors is one thing, but taking action is another,” said Bissonnette. It’s crazy, the panelists we had, who came from the [academic] field, the banking field, the construction field, the real estate field, and who shared their experience. People came from different regions of Quebec. I think the sector is much more advanced than perceived. Companies are doing a lot of actions in different forms, more and more. »
At the end of the conference, the testimony of a construction litigation lawyer, Guy-Philippe Bouchard, from Belleau Lapointe, was particularly revealing as to the importance for companies in the industry to consider the ESG factors when carrying out a project.
“I can tell you they make better projects that don’t end up in court,” he said. Companies that do not pay attention to their ESG factors, I discover them, because when I prepare interviews and files, I look at websites and I go into the bowels of site documents. This makes cases that invariably end up in front of a judge, because we can’t settle them, and everything was badly managed during the construction site. It ends up costing the industry a lot of money, and then sometimes it leaves buildings that are worth nothing to their owners. »
In short, the rigor that is required to promote the integration of ESG factors does not only benefit companies, which are in a better position to do well. It also benefits clients, large and small.