Mainstreaming Sustainability in Large Engineering Consultancy Firms

Project Overview

The Mainstreaming Sustainability project explored variations in firm-level responses to the changing regulatory, policy and market contexts. Research focused on the ways in which change leaders are working to translate demands for sustainable construction into firm level visions and to incorporate them in organisational structures and practices. The research combined an industry level comparison of changes in corporate vision and identity as evidenced in annual reports over the past ten years with firm level exploration of specific sustainability strategies and their implementation.


The last decade has witnessed a growing number of demands on firms to incorporate sustainability into their core business operations. These include EU, national and sector specific policies, including the Strategy for Sustainable Construction (2006), financial incentives ranging from public sector and client requirements to social investment funds and government subsidies and incentive schemes to firm level commitments. Discussions of corporate sustainability tend focus on manufacturing and power sectors. This research project was designed to explore the specificity of challenges facing the construction sector as well as variations between firms.

Key Objectives

The objectives of the study were to:

  • Document the main trends in sustainable construction, as evidenced in annual reports and policy documents.
  • Explore how sustainable strategies are formulated and implemented.
  • Trace the communication of new strategies, visions and corporate images across the firm.
  • Identify potential tensions between sustainability vision and routine procedures, incentives and goals.
  • Develop a set of practical recommendations for a better integration of sustainability across the firm.


Industry partners
Carillion plc


Jacobs UK

Acadmic partners
University of Reading

Research Outputs

Conference papers

Schweber, L. and Boyd, P. (forthcoming 2012) "Mainstreaming sustainability: a comparison of three large firms". Proceedings of the 28th ARCOM Conference, Edinburgh, UK: 3rd - 5th September.


Schweber, L. "Mainstreaming Sustainability: a tale of three firms" School of Construction Management and Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, 22 March, 2012.

Associated Staff


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