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Integration Tools and Sustainability Implements … A Holistic Approach to Integrated Sustainability

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It is often stated that the first law of nature is that of self?preservation. Perhapssustainability is the ecological equivalent - an inertial tendency toward existing and existence. The Brundtland Commission, created by the United Nations in 1983 to address the whole of interactivity within and among the human environment and natural resources in the context of economic and social impact, would establish the context of sustainability, or moreoversustainable development:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

While the core of this statement has remained unaltered for more than twenty?five years, the means and mechanisms to the manifestation of this simple thesis have been varied and variable. Indeed, this statement has produced an intergenerational and interdisciplinary statement of vision and acceptance; however, the action plan to weave a definition of success with a consensus paradigm of action is absent from the universally regarded statement.

The concepts of sustainability span engineering and science, public policy and politics, economics and sociology, geography and anthropology, and more. Specialized fields of study or sustainability applications include, but are not limited to, Total Water Management (TWM), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Environmental Management Systems (EMS). An inherent sustainability component is evident in concepts such as, Risk Management (RM), Global Climate Change (GCC), Carbon Footprint (CF), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and Triple Bottom Line (TBL).

CH2M HILL is a global leader in full?service engineering, consulting, construction, and operations. Our human and technical resources, international footprint, and projects and services, that span environmental and other arenas, demand that we account for our role and that of our customers, clients, and consumers relative to local, regional, national, continental, and global sustainability.

Whether designing and building chemical plants in Buenos Aires, super cleanrooms in Japan, or wastewater treatment plants in New Zealand; managing and performing nuclear site remediation in Colorado, Washington, and Idaho; or operating the day to day utility services of local municipalities in Georgia, our firm recognizes the importance and impact of sustainability. CH2M HILL continues to craft sustainable solutions that are timely and timeless – contributing to a domestic and global community of sustainability and stewardship, and remaining ever mindful of government regulations, environmental concerns, maintenance requirements, and public perceptions.

The tools that have been developed and utilized by CH2M HILL lead the industry in application, innovation, and longevity. As we embark upon the newest and most evolutionary of projects, such as, managing the overall effort to create the world's first carbon?neutral, zero?waste, 100% renewable energy city – MASDAR; we must address the internal need (as a unified corporate entity) and external demand (from our project constituents) for a rigorous and analytical framework to address sustainability and implement its tenets.

Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is one such approach that is being used by CH2M HILL to address the action component of the sustainability model. The term, coined by John Elkington in 1998, emphasizes the triad of people – planet – profits. TBL accounting incorporates an equivalent metric for social costs and benefits, environmental costs and benefits, along with economic costs and benefits. Our TBL strategy defines sustainability in the context of a full range of criteria – universal in concept / local in application – organized among and between competing and complementary economic, social, and environmental realities.

The task of melding a holistic aim (sustainability) and an application principle (TBL) around a corporate framework (CH2M HILL) cannot be undertaken lightly. It is the breadth and depth of our human capital and our project expertise that allow us to draw, from the most varied and extreme cases, a construct of the issues that influence each TPL tenet and thus hone in on a structure to consistently and effectively employ our approach to sustainable design, development, and engineering.

CH2M HILL proposes to employ its institutionally inveterate Six?Step Model – Comprehensive System Analysis, Evaluation, and Sustainability Decision Making – as a platform to address sustainability. Sustainable development of major projects requires a consistent approach to decision making in order to garner public support and to provide transparency and appropriate documentation for the consenting process. Therefore, Sustainable Implementation will be developed and evaluated according to the following steps:

I. Develop the Goals and Objectives to guide the Sustainable Implementation (Decision) process

II. Frame the Implement in the context of the goals and objectives

III. Develop Implementation Evaluation Criteria based on the goals and objectives

IV. Collect and/or Generate Data necessary to evaluate the various alternatives

V. Analyze and Evaluate the Alternatives

VI. Develop Specifics for the Preferred Alternative

Taken together and in combination with other tools, such as Multi?Criteria Analysis (MCA), Voyage™, CH2M HILL Parametric Cost Estimating System (CPES™), it is possible to systematically define sustainability goals and objectives across economic, social, and environmental categories; propose implements to achieve success; evaluate the effectiveness and applicability of such implements; and develop the action agenda consistent across organizational and stakeholder interests.

Inherent in the application of a decision analysis framework for sustainable implementation are the tenets of the triple bottom line (TBL) framework: people – planet – profits. More aptly, consideration of the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits are the very definition of a multi?criteria application. It is nearly impossible to imagine any engineering project of significant scale that could conceivably exclude any one of the three base criteria.

Consensus, however, may not be as easily derived from a multi?stakeholder group with specific interests, constituent concerns, and holistic aims. Consider the most basic of generic public water projects that elicit divergent economic concerns from federal and local policy makers, locally and regionally impacted citizens, and funding sources. Imagine that same project impacting the environment in a manner both acceptable to some and untenable to others within the universal set of core stakeholders. Furthermore, consider the fervent debate that is possible in recognition of a multitude of social affects and effects.

Thomas Schelling wrote in Choice and Consequence: Perspectives of an Errant Economist, that policy judgments are more easily made when goals are farther from our reach. With growing capabilities and receding horizons, knowing the next steps is significantly simplified. This phenomenon places us precipitously close to overshoot and hence non?sustainability. Instead, we should approach sustainability as suggested by Kai Lee in Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment. Sustainable management is only possible through the structured merger of science (compass) and politics (gyroscope). As we strive toward sustainability, we move toward a condition that is dynamic and evolving. However, with the appropriate forethought, inclusivity, and structured analytic framework, we balance competing interests with complimentary ideas and move toward the ideals that are essential for the preservation and prosperity of future generations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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