November 20, 2020

ESOP-Owned Black & Veatch Focuses on Sustainable Energy

Employee ownership provides a lot of benefits to employees, communities, and companies, but one of the less discussed but most important features of employee ownership is that it allows companies to focus on long-term goals and values, not the short-term goals of public company shareholders or private equity firm buyers. Black & Veatch is the 10th-largest majority ESOP-owned company and the 12th-largest engineering company (in fact, 7 of the top 20 are employee-owned, and 6 are NCEO members). Recently, it made a major decision to focus on sustainable energy products and move away from any coal-related projects.

Black & Veatch was in the news earlier this year for its support of innovation in the face of the pandemic. This time, it's committing to fighting climate change, announcing that it will be withdrawing from design, power, and construction that is reliant on coal. It will instead be putting resources toward renewable and sustainable forms of energy, with a goal of reducing its industry’s overall carbon footprint. Speaking on the impetus for such a bold move, Black & Veatch’s power business president Mario Azar highlighted the freedom the ESOP provided to do what the company saw as the right thing. “We are an employee-owned company, and we do not make decisions based on what the market wants to hear, or how the market will react,” said Azar in an interview with Powermag.com. “It’s really centered around our values and our future. It was us, telling ourselves, did we really want to be part of that [coal] legacy anymore?”

The tenets of Black & Veatch's sustainability plan (taken from this article) are:

  • Managing the company’s carbon footprint and achieving net zero emission for overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
  • Gauging the company’s water footprint and helping clients meet their own sustainable water use objectives to address the complexity and local nature of water as a critical resource through Black & Veatch’s operations and work.
  • Incorporating sustainability principles into all project execution manuals.
  • Continuously improving management systems that enable and support operating ethically and with integrity.
  • In the interest of health, safety and security, continuously improving management systems that enable and support safe operations.
  • Cultivating and embracing an inclusive, diverse workplace.
  • Through its Black & Veatch Foundation and community partnerships, aligning its charitable giving with its mission and core values, and with the UN SDGs.