Commitment to strong corporate values starts at the top, webinar hears

12 Mar 2024

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Whether companies are living up to their corporate values – and what happens when they don’t – came under the spotlight at the latest webinar in FIDIC’s 2024 series of online events.

When it comes to culture does your company walk the talk? Making your corporate values mean something, organised by FIDIC’s Future Leaders Advisory Council on 12 March 2024 looked at an issue that is increasingly important for young professionals – and indeed all professionals – which was influencing choices when people were considering which firms they chose to work for. A key conclusion of the webinar was that a commitment to strong corporate values needed to start from the very top.

A knowledgeable panel of international speakers was assembled to highlight the key issues to be discussed at the webinar, including Rodrigo Juárez, a consultant at FOA Consultores and chair of the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council (Mexico), Dr Armando Castro, associate professor at the Bartlett School for Sustainable Construction and director of the Centre for Sustainable Governance and Law in the Built Environment at University College London (UK), LaToya Ouna, independent consultant on infrastructure procurement and contracts and member of the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council (Kenya), Harshita Jain, director at Consulting Engineers Group (India) and Mauricio Gomez, CEO of EPTISA (Spain).

Welcoming delegates to the webinar, FIDIC board member and Eptisa president Luis Villarroya highlighted the results of a recent survey of nearly 700 large companies that found that more than 80% published an official set of corporate values on their website. “Senior leaders, in particular, like to talk about their company culture and, over the past three decades, more than three-quarters of CEOs interviewed in a major business magazine discussed their company’s culture or core values – even when they were not specifically asked about it!” he said.

Villarroya also urged attendees to get involved with the work of FIDIC’s Future Leaders Advisory Council if they were not already doing so. “They are doing some really excellent work which will advance the future prospects of young professionals in our industry and they need all our support,” he said.

“Don't pursue profits over people”

Opening the webinar, Rodrigo Juárez, consultant at FOA Consultores and chair of the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council, said that FIDIC’s Future Leaders were keen to talk about topics that were often ignored or seldom discussed by the industry. “Future leaders are looking for work-life balance, prioritising their health (physical and emotional) and flexibility,” he said. “But we are also interested in poor corporate practices and values. In the same way as investors are paying close attention to the ESG aspects of the business before investing, future leaders are also looking for companies that are guided properly, that are not blindly pursuing profit over people,” Juárez said.

The first speaker, Dr Armando Castro, associate professor at the Bartlett School for Sustainable Construction and director of the Centre for Sustainable Governance and Law in the Built Environment at University College London, talked about some of his research he has been conducing in the area of corporate values and governance. He addressed some of the drivers that were shaping company values and highlighted some of the recent reports his team had produced. “How do you incentivise senior leaders to deliver on ESG issues? We have a report coming out soon that will address this issue which will discuss whether senior leadership level remuneration should be linked to things like sustainable and social deliverables,” he said.


Castro also said that misrepresentation of a company’s values could have serious consequences for corporates, which could in a worst-case scenario include criminal sanction. He also said that construction companies should follow the debates and discussions that were taking place around issues like ESG and social value as this would be helpful to companies keeping up with best practice in this area.

“Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice”

LaToya Ouna, independent consultant on infrastructure procurement and contracts and a member of the FIDIC Future Leaders Advisory Council, spoke about fairness in a number of areas, including gender inclusion, wage levels and the effects of climate change. Ouna made a very powerful statement about diversity, saying “Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice”.She also said that companies in the construction and infrastructure sector needed to ensure that they delivered on environmental issues and also promoted that. Salary fairness was also a crucial area that was increasingly being looked at by potential employees and companies needed to pay attention to this,” she said. Ouna also said that demonstrating integrity was absolutely crucial for companies and this should be seen as a selling point for firms when it comes to winning work and also attracting employees.

Harshita Jain, director at Consulting Engineers Group, said that a company’s corporate values were like a fingerprint which distinguished a company in the marketplace. “A company’s values should be seen as its soul,” she said and developing and promoting a robust and meaningful set of corporate values was more important than ever. “These values are not mere platitudes, they should inform the direction of a company and set the tone for how it behaves and treats its employees and its stakeholders,” Jain said. It was also important that companies fostered a set of shared values that employees could buy into. “Company culture is the lifeblood of the organisation. True success should be measured in the positive impact that we have and not just the profits we make,” said Jain.

“Managers and directors cannot hide when faced with difficult issues”

EPTISA CEO Mauricio Gomez said that companies needed to have a strong culture so that they could deal with the challenging and difficult decisions that would face them “sooner rather than later” and a commitment to strong corporate values needed to start from the very top. “Managers and directors cannot hide when faced with the reality of addressing challenging situations and having a robust set of corporate values were essential in making the right decisions,” said Gomez. He made the point that when developing corporate values, companies should ensure that all areas of the organisation, at all levels, were involved. He encouraged attendees to take a critical look at companies to see whether their behaviours were living up to what they said about themselves as this would reveal whether those organisations were in fact “walking the talk” when it comes to this crucial issue.

The discussion covered a lot of ground, including the definitions of greenwashing, bluewashing and pinkwashing. Webinar chair Rodrigo Juárez explained that ‘bluewashing’ was similar to ‘greenwashing’ and was a term used to describe deceptive marketing that overstates a company's commitment to responsible social practices. It can be used interchangeably with the term greenwashing but has a greater focus on economic and community factors,” he said. It was also highlighted in the discussion that increasingly the international financial institutions and the multilateral development banks were looking at company commitments to ESG and the SDGs before they consider them for tenders and funding. Such developments would help to ‘encourage’ firms to do the right thing and be seen to do the right thing.

The next webinar in FIDIC’s 2024 series of events takes place on Tuesday 26 March 2024 and will take a deeper dive into the highly topical issue of artificial intelligence (AI) and it’s growing potential to transform the construction and infrastructure sector.

Click here to book your place at the webinar, AI - powering a new era for construction? The potential of artificial intelligence to transform the industry.

Click below to view the full webinar recording. 

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