Ausenco’s new Vice President of Sustainability is bringing people together to make our industry more sustainable. In this article, we talk with Alexandra Almenara about how she, and her team, are finding better – and more sustainable – ways for Ausenco and its clients.
I understand you are new to the position but not new to Ausenco or Sustainability. Tell us about your background.
That’s right. Academically and practically, I’ve focused on sustainability for over 20 years. I joined Ausenco as the head of the South American Environment and Sustainability group at the start of the pandemic – an interesting time to start a new job. And I recently moved to Vancouver, Canada to head up the Sustainability group across the Americas.
What’s changed in the 20 years you have been working in the field?
A lot has changed. Not too long ago, most companies saw sustainability as little more than a Corporate Social Responsibility stunt. Companies invested in sustainability because they wanted people to see them do the right thing. Today, however, sustainability is at the core of a project’s success. In fact, our experience, and the literature suggests, that sustainability risks are now the leading cause of project delays. Investors recognize this and are keen to ensure sustainability risks are taken seriously on their projects.
How does your group support mining, energy and infrastructure clients?
Sustainability has always been at the heart of Ausenco’s services – it is embedded across our end-to-end service capability. We deliver full life cycle solutions – supporting our clients at every step. We provide a wide range of environmental planning and permitting services, leveraging our deep experience in biodiversity, ecology and environment. Where water is involved, our water resources teams jump into action supporting, for example, water balances, hydrogeological modelling and water quality monitoring. Our GeoTech group performs stability work with a focus on finding sustainable options for clients, particularly around tailings storage facilities, where we support early stage design all the way to supervising the construction of some of the biggest tailing dams in the world. At the same time, we assist with dam safety and implementation of the latest industry standards.
Site assessment and remediation is also a key strength, and we are constantly looking at ways to make site closures more sustainable. In addition, a key component of our services is our human environment support. We work to develop and maintain strong sustainable relationships with communities and Indigenous peoples to ensure projects go ahead while protecting the best interests of all stakeholders.
Our team is constantly driven to innovate. We work with a group of experts who specifically focus on making sure our teams are provided with the support and tools needed to test new ideas and the latest technology in geomatics, visualization (VR), and drones amongst others.
Why do you believe that Ausenco is different from other players in the sector?
In a word – it’s our integration. At a functional level, our teams work shoulder-to-shoulder with our engineering professionals to continuously innovate, improve and advance sustainability practices in the design and building of assets. This deep collaboration means our sustainability professionals clearly understand the practical implications of their work, and that our engineering professionals recognize the sustainability impacts of their designs and plans.
At a global level, our sustainability teams are integrated across markets and regions. We recognize that – while each situation and market is different – our ability to share best practices and collaborate on new ideas globally and across regions means we can bring the very best sustainability practices, innovations and experience to the table for our clients. I’m not sure any other firm can offer that kind of global insight with practical application.
What sustainability challenges do you see clients struggling with most often?
I think for many asset owners, part of the struggle comes from understanding all the different ways that the ESG and sustainability agenda can impact and enhance a project. I believe many clients are surprised at the opportunities that sustainability can offer and the various ways that Ausenco can help.
More strategically, however, I think many asset owners are looking at the world’s goals for NetZero carbon emissions by 2050 and are starting to think seriously about how they can contribute. We’re working with a number of asset owners to rethink their designs and plans to uncover innovative and reliable paths to help them achieve their goals. But it takes a lot of future thinking, diverse perspectives and experience to get there.
How does Ausenco’s encouragement to ‘Find a Better Way’ influence the value your team delivers?
Every day, our teams are inspired to Find a Better Way – for our clients, for our communities and for our planet. Sustainability is all about finding better ways. And our professionals wholeheartedly embrace the call to action. We encourage every member of our team to speak up, to contribute and to challenge the status quo. Our doors are always open and our executive teams and decision-makers are accessible and approachable. Simply put, Ausenco’s culture inspires our people to go above and beyond.
What advice would you give clients and industry players around sustainability?
The best advice is to start thinking about it right from the start. There are so many risks that could be avoided with proper awareness and planning. And the earlier you engage professionals and start permitting, the sooner you will have certainty around project timelines, forecasts and projections. You can’t overestimate the importance of engaging sustainability professionals early in the process for any size of project.
Want to learn more about our Sustainability Services? Check out our services page or contact Alexandra directly.