Sustainable development encompasses many aspects and challenges for stakeholders in society. VINCI’s responsibility in connection with these challenges primarily covers one of these aspects – “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), a concept that concerns both public and private enterprises. Aware of its CSR, VINCI believes it is its duty to take a proactive and practical approach to cut through the fog of theoretical concepts around sustainable development. This is why VINCI is keen to develop in greater depth the methodologies and measuring tools that the company will be able to use to define and achieve its goals in terms of sustainable development.
Here again, these tools cannot be applied to all aspects of sustainable development, but will focus on the aspect in which VINCI, as builder, has the capacity to make decisions and serve the community.
VINCI’s business is to finance, design, build and manage infrastructure that enhances everybody’s life: transport infrastructure, public and private buildings, car parks, urban facilities, and communication and energy networks. The lion’s share of the Group’s business comes from clients who themselves define the purpose and location of these structures; for this reason, VINCI’s responsibility is very sharply reduced. The social impact of a project is typically decided by the client, who positions the project and defines the programme. Consequently, VINCI’s social responsibility is virtually limited to that of its employees and its activity – an important responsibility, true, but one that does not extend beyond the project itself.
VINCI’s responsibility and decision-making power may be reduced but they are nonetheless brought into play in one area, which is managing the environmental aspects of projects. This is indeed the real challenge for VINCI – the environment, and more specifically minimising the impact of our projects on the environment on society’s behalf. This is why, of all the approaches to sustainable development, VINCI prefers to focus on the aspect of eco-design.
Eco-design is defined as a responsible approach that aims to deliver products designed in such a way as to integrate environmental conservation concerns throughout their life cycle. This necessarily entails controlling the flows generated by the activity and involves all the players in the chain of production and use. Eco-design consists of a multi-criteria approach to environmental problems where impact on the environment is looked at on several levels: both local, with the growing scarcity of raw materials and the various forms of pollution caused to ecosystems, and global, with climate change. Consumption of raw materials and CO2 emissions are often taken into consideration. Other impacts need to be integrated, such as use of energy resources, water consumption and discharges (waste production, water, air and soil pollution, etc.).
The primary objective of eco-design is to mitigate the impact of a product or service on the environment, while preserving its global qualities and performances. There is a strategic challenge for VINCI here: rethinking its business lines so as to integrate environmental performance. Recourse to eco-design takes in the management of each project or operation. But as a stakeholder in society, VINCI must also reflect on its global activity. Eco-design, which is a global and overall approach, suggests another application of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), i.e. to strengthen annual reporting by means of a sampling method. From this viewpoint, eco-design can provide fundamental support for a reliable and transparent reporting procedure.
VINCI, together with other players in the area of buildings and infrastructure, must develop its capacity to understand and apply eco-design to its projects and activity. There is therefore a need for in-depth reflection on the principles and tools of eco-design. It is crucial that this work be shared with all the players involved in the built environment and that it be guided by the most comprehensive scientific approach. This is why we established a multi-disciplinary Chair. Since VINCI’s work by essence concerns the “built environment”, it expects the Chair to contribute to establishing a sustainable platform for acquiring and sharing better knowledge of procedures to measure the environmental impact of its projects and its activity. This encompasses new and renovated buildings, mobility infrastructure, the connections between the built environment and networks (connectivity), on the scale of the neighbourhood and, at least, of a regional entity making it possible to integrate scale effects. The research conducted by the Chair must lead to creation of decision-making tools for reasoned application of eco-design. The study of new processes is the work of technological design, but eco-design enables us to say whether these processes are commensurate with the environmental challenges defined.