Social, Environmental and Economic Outcomes

Looking outside your business and the world around it, specifically the areas that it influences and interfaces with will take this impact and positive affect to a significantly higher level.

Concentrating on economic outcomes first it is easy to imagine how your organisation has an impact on those around you. If your direct employees or those of your supply chain are paid well, on time and are confident that this money won’t dry up, then they will be more likely to spend that money in the local economy, supporting other businesses. If we look at infrastructure, and your organisation supports a good transport link into the city or has reliable services then the property prices rise, with a comparable local economic growth.

Environmental challenges will become the major theme that will shape the way the construction industry delivers our business and how the owner operates their assets. We will be increasingly, whether through law or financially be required to mitigate the impact of climate change and how we deliver low-carbon design, construction and operation. The winners in this space will be those who can understand at every level what effect they are having. This will of course require a whole raft of information modelling allowing the end user to measure, monitor and record environmental impacts of everything they do.

An interesting study on the environmental impacts on logistics was undertaken by a Cambridge based company a few years back. Looking at just a simple lbs of Carbon per mile is a very naïve and inaccurate way of calculating the environmental impact of transporting materials on to site. When the output of NOx is measured on the standard rolling road of the manufacturer it doesn’t take into account the stop-start, gear change, accelerate, deceleration aspects of a real journey! So, the short route, that goes through many junctions, traffic lights, hills and other obstacles will pollute the environment considerably more than a longer, flatter route with minimal obstacles. The way forward with this will of course be electrification of the logistics supply chain.

Whilst working on the Euston Station upgrade archaeological dig, the contractor used electric plant to strip the topsoil and support the works due to it being under a large tent, cutting down the danger to the archaeologists working nearby and also dramatically reducing the environmental impact.

 The final one of this tripartite is society.


The most difficult to define, measure and monitor, but ultimately the one that will deliver the highest return for the investment in information modelling.

It’s not a specific or tangible piece of paper but your social licence is granted to you by the society that permits you to exist in the fact that they use your services, buy your goods, work for your company, invest in your business and interact with you in a way that allows your business to remain. Measuring it can be more of a perception rather than a science!

A study was undertaken to use social media to try to measure the impact of society on the upgrade construction of a major station in London. Looking at the hashtags most commonly used for the station and analysing the positive, negative and neutral tweets during the project and linking them to the project timeline to see where these impacts were felt and what might have triggered them. This allowed a very crude form of post project analysis on social impact. Better tools with artificial intelligence linked to multiple social platforms will be able to real time track societal reaction and perhaps feedback in the future on what might happen if project programmers scheduled a certain activity at a certain time, helping the teams to make better decisions.

Combining the understanding of all three of these could have one of the biggest impacts on getting funding and acceptance of a digital advancement strategy for your company!

  • Who do you need to convince the most?

  • Who holds the budget to fund any work on this?

  • Who do you need to convince that it’s going to be money well spent?

That will be the CEO and CFO of a business.

  • What makes the CEO/CFO tick? Making the business perform and keeping the share price for its stakeholders at a good value, so they get paid good dividends.

  • How do those shares get effected by Social, Environment and Economic outcomes? That will take a little more explaining…

Society is affected by the people that live in it. Those people need a good work/ life balance that allows them to play an active part in their communities; attending social functions, volunteering, attending theatres, sports and helping to form the nucleus of a more integrated and caring world.

This is affected heavily by the amount of time we have to spare at the end of a working day. So, let’s say our railway was poorly maintained and was constantly breaking down for a reason we had no idea about for we lacked the information to understand it. I write as a long-standing commuter on the south of England’s rail routes! I am stressed in the morning because I don’t know whether I will get to work on time, I am always late in the evening as the trains are frequently late or cancelled.


By the time I am home, my family are already upset from missed meals, appointments and events. It’s easier after that nightmare of a journey not to partake in society, but to be selfish and concentrate on my own world.

When we don’t have good information about the state of our assets and how things might negatively affect the environment there is always media coverage. So, knowing how we can create a positive impact, not just during the construction and measuring our carbon footprint, but in the long term when operating our assets. Designing things to operate in an efficient manner to use less power or produce less emissions. When there is an environmental disaster, there is a real impact on the value of the business as well as the ecosystem around us.

Economic impacts are slightly easier to grasp, as we know that every hour spent sitting in a traffic jam costs the GDP around about £40. That traffic could be caused by unscheduled repair or an incident caused through lack understanding how our asset is performing. It may be only a small cost to repair the crash barrier, but closing the lane, the bridge, the junction, the network has an impact on the businesses, local, regional and national economies. And when that happens the public perception of the organisation running that asset takes a hit.

Public perception is what effects share prices. That newspaper report on the negative social impact on the commuter, the oil spill that damaged the environment or the cost on the local economy of a poorly run asset will dramatically affect how much the business is perceived to be worth.

So, what can we do about it, I can’t just keep throwing money in a bottomless digital pit?

We need to understand the relationships between our assets and these 3 factors. Firstly, we need to sort out our asset breakdown structure, ensuring that we know the impact of each major system/ functional grouping and how that links upwards to the bigger picture. Secondly, we need to set out an Asset tagging Strategy, so we can see the functions, systems and locations giving us an idea as to how critical or operationally severe they are.

Finally, we need to gather asset information requirements not just the CAPEX and OPEX phases, but also from the business end and truly understand what we need to know to quantify, measure and monitor each asset in terms of social, environmental and economical values.