Diversity & Inclusion

“We are committed to being the most inclusive employer in our industry”

Carole O’Neil has over 15 years of experience working with Cundall and was recently appointed Global Managing Partner

Building an inclusive business where anyone can thrive is a goal that Carole O’Neil is committed to realising at Cundall. She made the revelation during an exclusive chat with Middle East Construction News (MECN), and noted the issue is close to her heart.

“Our strength has always been our people, and my own professional background in human resources means that building a business where all talent can thrive will always be close to my heart. I want to continue to drive this by building our leadership capability through activities such as leadership development, succession planning and mentoring. At Cundall, we are committed to being the most inclusive employer in our industry, and I’m looking forward to continuing to provide visible leadership on this in my new role,” she explains.

In June, Cundall announced O’Neil as its new Global Managing Partner, taking over the reins from Tomás Neeson. She has over 15 years of experience with the firm, having first joined as Human Resources Director in 2007.

O’Neil fully assumes the role on 1 July, 2022 and when pressed about how she envisions her day-to-day schedule will change, she responds, “I expect to be doing a lot more travel around our global business. We’ve always been passionate about retaining our ‘One Cundall’ ethos, and I see it as a key part of my role to help keep everyone connected with where we are headed, and to listen and respond to the feedback from people across the business. I’m also looking forward to meeting more of our clients and other leaders in the industry.”

Discussing some of her key short- and long-term goals, O’Neil outlines, “My short-term goals are to launch our new business strategy and to get people talking about it. I’ll be getting out to meet as many people as possible across the business and supporting our regional leadership teams in developing plans to implement the strategy in their own territories.”

“Long term goals include building a high-performance culture at all levels and in all parts of our business. Building on our reputation for working collaboratively with our clients to deliver great projects and delivering on our Zero Carbon Design 2030 commitments,” she points out.

Asked about her reaction to a recent report by the WMO that stated there is a 50:50 chance of global temperatures temporarily reaching the 1.5-degrees Celisus threshold in next five years, she states, “Our planet is witnessing a series of devastating climatic effects, and scientists cannot be clearer on the direct negative role humans are playing here. Without an immediate and global commitment to action, both short and long-term consequences will be terrible. Good faith efforts and traditional ESG initiatives are no longer sufficient, we must witness a complete societal transformation through more integrated and purposeful solutions, starting from the bottom up.”

“In my new capacity as Global Managing Partner, sustainability will be at the forefront of my agenda and all future company decisions. I plan to continuously invest in our teams to build the sustainable capabilities needed to effectively guide our clients and help stakeholders play a leading role in shaping the global sustainability agenda,” she adds.

“In 2020, we were recognised as the first consultancy worldwide to achieve the Net Zero Carbon Trust certification, following twelve years of data recordings. We fully understand the challenges at stake and aim to capitalise on these lessons learned to provide stakeholders with tangible tested solutions that can achieve Net Zero Carbon. At Cundall, we always strive to push the boundaries of the built environment and have set ourselves a new and even more ambitious goal: by 2030 every project we design will be zero carbon. We’re on a journey towards zero carbon in this decisive decade, and we invite everyone in the wider industry to join us in making zero carbon design 2030 a reality.”

Circling back to diversity and inclusion in the built environment, the issue has gained significant visibility in recent years, and progress has certainly been made, however MECN believes there’s still a significant journey ahead. Sister publication Middle East Consultant will continue to focus on this topic this year with its forthcoming Women in Construction Summit, which will take place on 25 October in Dubai.

Asked about her thoughts on the how the industry is progressing, she comments, “It’s not progressing at the pace I would like, but I think there are really positive signs that we’re starting to take this seriously as an industry. There is still a huge amount to do, and there are systemic issues that contribute to the lack of diversity that we continue to see. We’ve had success at Cundall in the last few years in beginning to address the challenges that under-represented groups can face at work; we’re seeing increasingly visible engagement at all levels within the business, and we’ve seen the proportion of women in our leadership roles double over the last two years. We have a responsibility to share our learning and experiences with others in the industry, and we are actively engaging more widely on this.”

One key issue with regards to this topic is the role the construction sector should play in influencing young people to think about careers in the built environment. Sharing her thoughts on this point, O’Neil says, “There is so much that we can offer, and the work that we do has such an enormous impact on the world, but as an industry we are not consistently good at selling the opportunities that exist.”

She concludes, “We need to continue to provide positive, relatable role models, and to showcase the amazing opportunities that exist within construction. We need to be doing this at the earliest possible stage, which means talking to primary school children and getting them involved in fun activities that reflect what we do is important. We must also be engaging with those who influence young people (parents, carers, teachers etc.), as so much of young people’s messaging comes from their home and school environments.”

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