Identifying and responding to climate change and other key megatrends in ways which ensure respect for human rights and tackle inequality

Published: 7 Jul 2022
Author: Peter Oosterveer, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board of Arcadis
Type: Insight

At Arcadis, our ‘Maximizing Impact’ strategy rests on two pillars: taking care of people and our planet. Foundational to focusing on people is treating them with dignity and respect, something on which Arcadis has based its purpose—"improving quality of life”— and which we continue to pursue with vigor, aligning our approach closely with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In doing so, our aim is not simply to meet international expectations, but also to act in a manner that allows us to fully realize our core purpose. Our long-term human rights objective is to embed purposeful actions and behaviors, within and around Arcadis, that create a positive impact for people, communities, and our planet. We understand that positive impacts to people flow directly from respecting human rights and see this as key to unlocking a sustainable present and future, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and tackling significant societal challenges like discrimination and inequality.

When it comes to respecting human rights, more than ever, it is vital for businesses to have a deep understanding of the changing world around us. That’s why, in creating our current strategy, we identify four megatrends - Urbanization, Climate Change, Digitalization and Societal Expectations - that we believe are particularly relevant for Arcadis and shape the environment and markets in which we operate. All of these trends interact closely with human rights and with the tackling inequality agenda and influence the choices we make as a company and the work we do for clients.

Focusing in on climate change, it is clear that this is a trend that has the potential to fuel and feed inequality across our societies - threatening food and livelihood insecurity, leading to mass migrations, and leading to increasingly more frequent damage and disruption affecting people in all geographies.

Our efforts to address climate change also interact with the tackling inequality agenda and need to be planned carefully and deliberately in a people-centric manner. Arcadis is committed to playing our part in the just transition to net-zero. Realizing this just transition will require not only ensuring that the workforce in present day carbon-intensive industries can secure future economic opportunities and aren’t left behind, but also that in the process of transforming our energy systems, communities and workforce are not harmed. We must ensure communities give consent to new renewables projects built on their lands; that the workforce who build those projects are treated with respect; and that the supply chains that source the materials for those projects do not pose threats to people. We cannot build the future on the backs of others.

We also have to ensure accessibility to renewable technology so that, for example, electric cars and the infrastructure that supports their charging, are within reach of the masses, and not, as is currently the case, the minority with financial means.  

Ultimately we will only succeed in transitioning to a net-zero economy if we do so in a way which is just and inclusive.

A wide range of stakeholders are demanding that companies (and governments for their part) act with integrity to create a better world that is more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. The challenge we all must confront is how to respond to critical issues such as climate change in ways that do not further entrench inequality but rather help to fight it.

For us at Arcadis, we believe it is urgent to focus on equity and prosperity for all, simply because it is, and has always been, part of what we do - improving quality of life. I invite others to meet this challenge with us. 

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