Integrated infrastructure delivery company AECOM’s Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) accreditation underpins all its transformation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives in the Africa and Middle East region. This is also aligned with AECOM’s global diversity and inclusion goals.
The focus in this regard is South Africa, where transformation is the main driver, while elsewhere in Africa localisation is more important. This relates to local supplier development, while South Africa has a broader and more complex framework encompassing B-BBEE, affirmative action, employment equity, supplier development, and skills development.
Shirley Meyer, Transformation Specialist for AECOM – Corporate Services, Africa, explains that her main function is to ensure that all initiatives and programmes launched by AECOM are sustainable and in line with its B-BBEE strategy. Apart from overseeing audits in this regard, Meyer also assists with the implementation of transformation programmes and managing employment equity.
In terms of the transformation component usually associated with government projects, Meyer oversees tender submissions to ensure these are properly developed and in line with tender requirements and budgets. “The aim is to develop sustainable project transformation programmes, taking client objectives and goals into account and, in so doing, creating shared value,” Meyer explains.
The Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act also must be taken into account, while construction tenders have to comply with the specific requirements of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). This is a national body overseeing the sustainability and growth of the construction industry in South Africa.
“Our clients, in turn, develop in-house transformation strategies aligned with their business or company goals, which are then deployed on various projects,” Meyer highlights. Transnet, for example, has a supplier development programme focused on job creation, supplier development and skills development, while the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) focuses on supplier development, outsourcing and skills development, in line with the government’s New Growth Path and National Development Plan. Both are major clients of AECOM in South Africa.
“It depends on what the specific client requirements are in terms of those projects. All have a major skills development component. Another critical aspect is developing sub-consultants by training and allocating work to them to increase their capacity and capability. Some projects also have a specific community-involvement requirement, which necessitates launching socio-economic initiatives in surrounding communities,” Meyer elaborates.
All AECOM’s CSR initiatives in South Africa are aligned with its global platform, Blueprint for a Better World, which has three main pillars. These are Opening Doors, Creating Opportunities, and Protecting Tomorrow. “Our projects, CSR, and B-BBEE strategies all have to be monitored carefully to remain within budget, as well as comply with all legislative requirements, policies and procedures spend, which is quite a balancing act,” Meyer admits. Local initiatives are also undertaken with targeted CSR partners such as LIV Village, LEAP, and the Robin Hood Foundation.
Meyer points out that diversity and inclusion is a focus for AECOM globally, dovetailing with its sustainability programme as well. She has organised and run several local workshops in this regard with great success, establishing the importance of these goals in the region.
“Diversity and inclusion is not just about including different races or gender. It is much broader, extending to technology, religion, ethnicity, disability, the younger generations and ethical value, for example,” Meyer adds. In this regard, AECOM has established what it terms diversity and inclusion champions throughout the region.
She reveals that AECOM will launch its ‘mCircles’ initiative in June, a mentorship programme designed specifically for female employees. This is in conjunction with the existing Disabled Learnership Programme and AECOM Education Trust.
“Research has shown that diversity and inclusion initiatives result in a happier workplace, boosting both innovation and profitability and will ultimately assist AECOM to create a competitive economy in a globalised world. Diversity and inclusion is therefore an important focus for AECOM both globally and in South Africa,” Meyer concludes.