Q&A with Jennifer Downey
Q: As the Director of Turner’s Environmental Social Governance, what is your role in advancing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies?
My role as Director of Environmental, Social, and Governance is really about connections and alignment. As we developed our strategy, we worked with hundreds of people at Turner as well as external stakeholders including clients, design partners, and trade partners in a materiality assessment to help prioritize elements of our strategy. In the development of the strategy itself, my role was to bring together the many ideas and ongoing efforts of working groups to synthesize information (along with a variety of other factors) into our strategy and our commitments. As we move forward, my role is to help operationalize our strategy and maintain connections to the leadership of our regions and to our employees. ESG is built upon the cultural core of Turner – so many elements are already integrated into who we are and what we do. Our commitments are also focused on performance and improvement, so we want to engage our employees who are closest to the work.
Q: Grace Farms is convening a Suppliers’ Workshop later this month. As a co-host of the Workshop, what outcomes do you expect?
I’m so excited about the ethical supply chain workshop! Just over a year ago, we hosted a summit on this topic at Turner. Since then, we have all learned so much, but we still have a long way to go. I’m excited to engage with this group of industry experts – especially the manufacturers of products that go into the buildings we build. I’m hoping that through the panels and the workshop activities, that we can make short term and long term changes within our organizations and beyond. I hope that this summit will kick off further industry cooperation and alignment on the topic of ethical supply chains in construction.
Q: Turner is committed to advancing a more healthy and equitable future for people and the planet through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. Can you discuss how Design for Freedom principals can advance these strategies?
I think one of the things that many people are realizing is how the topics of the environment and social are in many ways they intertwined. Which makes sense – that often the way people or companies treat the environment and the way they treat people are similar. Or that thinking about the health aspects of a material is also a social issue. In our ESG strategy, we have commitments focused on engaging in preconstruction and engaging our supply chain on topics of embodied carbon, resiliency, energy efficiency and renewables, and circularity as well as on the topic of human rights in our building materials supply chain. In fact, as with many elements of ESG, they are not actually siloed into clean buckets – rather they span many elements of our business and we are involving a diverse team to work together to solve these big challenges.
Q: The Design for Freedom movement has brought together over 100 global leaders from the built environment such as yourself. What makes you hopeful that Design for Freedom Principles will one day become the industry norm?
The principles in Design for Freedom are focused on the building material supply chain, but in many ways they can be applied to a wide range of topics. You have done that with tea and coffee at Grace Farms foods, but its also a topic of interest in other elements of our everyday lives – like the clothes we wear or the food we eat. Consumer behavior is an important driver of any industry, and as awareness grows, just as it has in these other industries, the demand also grows. With the continued growth of participation in the Design for Freedom working group comes exponential awareness – it’s like a classic chain letter – one new person tells five people and they tell five people and all of a sudden, there is a critical mass asking about these topics in the selection of building materials and systems.