- A Sustainable Future
- Letter from the CEO
- Sustainability Strategy
- Ethics and Business Conduct
- Human Rights
- Economic Performance
Improving Worker Welfare Around the World
In burgeoning construction markets worldwide, millions of workers travel from one country to another to build infrastructure for transportation, water, and other major projects. These workers can pay high recruitment fees in their home countries to land these jobs. Additionally, they are at risk of being exploited by unscrupulous contractors and may get paid late, or less than promised, for their work. They also might lack the ability to change their jobs, while living in poor accommodations. Because of these poor working conditions, human rights and fair labor groups have shone a spotlight on companies working in the construction sector.
While we do not recruit or employ construction workers in the Middle East, and rarely employ them elsewhere, we understand that these workers are perceived to be in our supply chain. Throughout 2015, we continued a multifaceted initiative to improve worker welfare and human rights, especially in the Middle East. Applying our industry leadership and strong health, safety, and environment (HSE) record, we are working with industry, governments, and nongovernmental organizations to improve the conditions of migrant construction workers around the world in the ways described below.
Fostering industry collaboration: Engineering and construction firms, international human rights organizations, and governments have limited opportunities to engage and collaborate with one other. But we believe that collaboration is an effective way to bring change on these human rights issues. We organized and cohosted two engineering and construction industry roundtables in London with the Institute for Human Rights and Business. These roundtables focused on worker welfare and human right and were supported by the UK Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills. The roundtables are part of a broader effort we are leading to form an industry organization dedicated to these issues.
The events have been attended by more than 15 leading international engineering and construction groups, a number of leading human rights and labor rights organizations, and high-level government officials. Additional roundtables are planned for 2016. The 2016 roundtables examine the requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act and discuss steps to promote worker welfare and prevent the exploitation of construction workforces globally. In addition to the London roundtables, our colleagues attended and spoke at various business and human rights conferences around the world to share and learn best practices.
Developing technology to improve working conditions: In September 2015, Tawny Chritton, one of our worker welfare professionals, traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, to attend TechCamp Nepal, a workshop on technology and migrant workers organized by Humanity United, a private foundation established by Pierre and Pamela Omidyar. At this event, we pitched an idea featuring mobile technology to help engineering and construction firms better understand the conditions of migrant construction workers in the Middle East.
Out of more than 20 ideas pitched at TechCamp Nepal, Humanity United selected this project as one of three to fund. The technology would allow construction workers to submit anonymous feedback in their native language about their living and working conditions through a mobile application, which would be provided to program managers.
These data are immediately available to the firm overseeing worker welfare on the project via a customized dashboard. The company can use the information to notify contractors or the client of areas of concern, intervening where appropriate. For CH2M and peer companies, this new program management tool will help ensure that worker welfare standards, which are embedded in construction companies’ contracts and host country labor regulations, are met.
This technology, designed and piloted in collaboration with Caravan Studios and Humanity United, will be tested on select CH2M projects in Qatar in 2016; it will then be made available for use by other companies and partners. Beyond helping improve conditions for migrant construction workers, it will also allow for more effective program delivery from engineering and construction firms overseeing major infrastructure projects.
Connecting workers with their families back home: In September 2015, Construction Week Qatar recognized our commitment to improving worker rights with a “Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year” award. This award demonstrates our firm’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and worker welfare in Qatar and other locations. We won the award with our partner, Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar), in recognition for our leadership on ictQatar’s Better Connections Program. With Phase I launched in January 2015, the program provides Internet access and technology training to low-income migrant construction workers, so they may stay in touch with their families and loved ones back home. The Better Connections Program has set up and equipped 100 new ictQatar facilities at worker accommodations, reaching thousands of migrant workers across Qatar. Other Better Connections partners include the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (our 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar client), Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, Qatar Foundation, and Microsoft Qatar. Human Rights comments include this final sentence:
For more information on our global worker welfare activities, visit the Human Rights section of this report.