“You can only fulfil expectations if you know what they are”

Implenia committed itself to sustainable development seven years ago. Time to take stock. The company staged a “stakeholder dialogue” session to find out how it was viewed from the outside and to determine priorities for the ­future.

“Nothing leaves this room!” It sounds like an order, but it’s meant as a promise. In fact it’s the fundamental rule for the two-hour event opened by Thomas Streiff on this autumn Wednesday in Zurich. Streiff is the Moderator for Implenia’s first ever stakeholder dialogue meeting. In the seminar room at the Hochschule für Wirtschaft in Zurich, a dozen representatives of businesses and organisations have met to talk with the construction firm about sustainability issues.G4-24 Confidentiality – and trust – form the basis for an open exchange of views. “The aim of the meeting is to find out where people outside the company think Implenia’s major challenges lie,” explains Thomas Streiff, a partner at consulting company BHP, which specialises in dialogue events like this.


Stakeholders are people and organisations within and outside a company that are affected by the company’s activities or, conversely, that have an influence on the company. This obviously includes employees and customers, but also neighbours, environmental and development organisations, trade unions and, not least, public authorities.

“Thanks to the chosen methodology we were able to discuss a wide range of sustainability issues and their different manifestations very efficiently and purposefully. Despite the diversity of stakeholders at the event, we often arrived at a pretty good consensus about how ­Implenia should go forward.”

Désirée Baer, Member of the Executive Board of SBB Infrastructure, Head of Purchasing, Supply Chain and Production

Sustainability criteria are not set in stone. There is a long list of issues that play a crucial role in a company’s sustainable development, including employment conditions, greenhouse gas emissions, attitudes to competition, and everything in between; but all organisations face a variety of challenges as a result of their own activities, as well as their supply chains. And even big players don’t have unlimited resources, so they have to set priorities.

This is why the international Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) recommends that companies carry out a materiality analysis. The GRI is an independent organisation that has established a set of worldwide ground rules for sustainability reporting. ­Implenia follows these rules. In a materiality analysis, companies define the aspects that are most important to its sustainable development. However, this assessment should not be done in isolation. “We want to know what society expects of us,” says Anton Affentranger, ­Implenia’s CEO, who took part in the event.

“I’m very pleased with the substantial and open input we received, and grateful for the very specific ideas, which we will be following up over the next few months.”

Anton Affentranger, CEO of Implenia

Implenia has been engaging intensively with the subject of sustainability since 2009, and it has acquired extensive expertise in the process, though the focus so far has always been internal. “It’s now time to review the direction we’re travelling in,” Affentranger tells participants. The Sustainability Department has produced a list of subjects as a basis for discussion, covering twelve main aspects within the four areas of environment, society, business and integrity. Around 20 operational and support staff gathered earlier for an internal event to consolidate the list. And now a dozen external stakeholders have been invited to Zurich to give their outside view of the key sustainability issues. ­Implenia wants to hear opinions from customers, suppliers, planners, trade unions, industry associations, NGOs, insurers, universities, investors and rating agencies.G4-25, G4-26 For efficiency’s sake, an electronic voting system is used to rank the individual themes. The results are immediately projected onto the wall and can be discussed straight away.

“A wide range of stakeholders were represented, which resulted in some very lively discussions. It was interesting to find out more about the different demands that Implenia has to cope with. I got the impression that the company really does take the important matters seriously.”

Roman Burger, Managing Director Unia, Zurich-Schaffhausen

This stakeholder dialogue gives ­Implenia a more accurate picture of how relevant the different themes are, allowing it to construct a “significant matrix” (see illustration). The voting confirms that the internal and the external participants rank many of the points in exactly the same way. “These results show that our company is going in the right direction as far as its chosen priorities are concerned,” says a pleased Rolf Wagenbach, Head of ­Implenia’s Sustainability Department. Although there are no major differences between the external and internal assessments, he believes the process is worthwhile. “Talking to each other in a confidential setting has helped everyone understand each other better.”

Materiality analysis

The internal and external participants have high expectations of ­Implenia as the industry leader. A comparison of responses shows that internal participants tend to be more critical and have even more ambitious expectations of ­Implenia. This is particularly clear when it comes to an assessment of the relevance of noise emissions. Internal participants gave this a weighting of 3.6 out of 4 points, whereas external participants only gave it 2.5 points.

“I very much appreciated the efficient organisation of the event and the direct involvement of the CEO. The expertise of those attending meant we could have a substantive discussion and come up with meaningful results. We’re very pleased to give our input when the discussion is as purposeful as this.”

René Estermann, Managing Director of myclimate

The internal and external groups both stated that use of resources, energy efficiency and climate change, health and safety, dealing with stakeholders, and integrity were all very relevant.G4-27

Participants clearly thought that ­Implenia should make these issues its main priorities in future. Employment conditions, employee development, economic impact and waste were seen as slightly lower priorities. Finally, use of water, noise emissions and biodiversity were seen as having little relevance. It should be noted, however, that participants did not regard these last priorities as unimportant in the more general sense. Their point was that ­Implenia was already very committed to these things by law because of all the rules on noise pollution, biodiversity and water, so there was only limited room for improvement. Statutory requirements are not so extensive in the other priority areas, so ­Implenia can take on a pioneering role by proactively setting new standards for the industry. The effort taken to set an example in these areas would pay off in the form of higher competitiveness, a better image and, not least, lower raw materials costs and reduced emissions.


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