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Robert Spencer, Global Head of ESG Advisory

Shortlisted for Sustainability Leader of the Year

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As ESG leaders in our industry, we are excited for Robert Spencer to take on his new role as Global Head of ESG Advisory Services. 

In his new role, Robert advises on ESG strategy and priorities at Board and Enterprise level, supporting establishment of goals, objectives and strategies for our transformative ESG programme. He advises on the full range of climate change, decarbonisation and sustainability services and targets key clients across the entire AECOM footprint. 

He is frequently consulted by clients, peers and the media, with a high reliance placed on his industry knowledge. And he prepares guidance, position papers and makes recommendations across the sustainable development field that are recognised as authoritative and have far-reaching impact on our AECOM enterprise and in our key markets.

Notable contributions to ESG:

Robert’s Role at AECOM 

As Global ESG Advisory services lead for AECOM, Robert advises on ESG strategy and priorities for our clients at Board and Enterprise level, supporting establishment of goals, objectives and strategies for their transformative ESG programmes.  He advises on the full range of climate change, decarbonisation and sustainability services and targets key clients across the entire AECOM footprint. He is frequently consulted by clients, peers and the media, with a high reliance placed on his industry knowledge. And he prepares guidance, position papers and makes recommendations across the sustainable development field that are recognised as authoritative and have far-reaching impact on our AECOM enterprise and in our key markets. 

In house, Robert interfaces with the AECOM executive leadership team, global business line leads, regional executives, practice leads, marketing, business development and working winning teams across AECOM on delivering our primary objective – embedding the ethos of Sustainable Legacies in everything we do. 

Recent Project Impact

Despite his corporate focus, Robert makes time for significant project delivery and here highlights two recent examples, which have resulted in real, sustainable impacts:

  1. The COP26 Futures We Want project, commissioned in 2021 by the UK Government in their role as COP26 President, aims to explore what the future could look like in a climate-resilient, net-zero world. The project was delivered by a consortium led by Deloitte, and including AECOM, the University of Cambridge, One Young World and Radley Yeldar. Robert led this pro-bono project for AECOM, which developed six visions of what a net zero, climate resilient future looks like. These visions were showcased by COP26 President, Alok Sharma with each vision coming from a different region – Brazil, India, Jamaica, Kenya, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom: https://www.futureswewant.world/acknowledgements

  2. The GNIplus project in Kenya, where Robert led for AECOM a climate project helping the Government of Kenya achieve its nationally determined contributions (NDC). Global NDC Implementation Partners (GNIplus) – a collaboration between AECOM, Climate Policy Initiative, Pollination and Ricardo Energy and Environment – supported Kenya for the last four years with a climate change mitigation and adaptation program, funded by the German International Climate Initiative (IKI): https://aecom.com/projects/gniplus-kenya/

Leadership at COP26

  • Robert co-led the AECOM Blue Pass delegation at COP26, which included launching the FIDIC Climate Charter at the French Pavilion and a number of side events and talks at AECOM premises and meetings across Glasgow

 

Leadership on Natural Capital 

As a passionate and committed nature lover and natural resource manager by training, Robert has taken a strong leadership position across many aspects of the natural capital and nature-based solutions agenda over recent years. He has leveraged his knowledge and influence to further the success of environmental gain and natural capital approaches both within AECOM and across our client partnerships and wider institutions. Robert co-founded and is executive sponsor of the award-winning Natural Capital Laboratory in Scotland – a 5-year AECOM R&D investment programme in advanced environmental data capture and analysis and stakeholder engagement on understanding natural systems. Insights from the NCL on digital natural capital accounts and incorporating ecosystem services and natural capital into business decision-making have transformed our approaches to environmental assessment for our clients. Under Robert’s leadership, AECOM plans to scale the NCL Scotland approach to a global network of NC Labs, yielding new insights on how business and nature can thrive together at a global level.   

As Chair of the Environmental Industries Commission Natural Capital Taskforce, Robert has facilitated joint learning across his peer group and led policy contributions to the UK government, including the EIC position paper: ‘Delivering Environmental Net Gain’, published in 2019. More recently, he took on chairing the Science working group of HRH Prince Charles’ Sustainable Markets Initiative. Under Robert’s leadership the Science working group on Natural Climate Solutions prepared the January 2022 position paper: “Technical advances in assessing natural climate solutions for global carbon markets”, which was a step forward in wider recognition of nature-based solutions and current breakthroughs in technology platforms for remotely assessing carbon in nature. 

Leadership on net zero, decarbonisation and reversing climate change 

As Vice Chair of the FIDIC Sustainable Development Committee since 2020, Robert has been working tirelessly to elevate FIDIC’s voice as a global champion of decarbonisation for consultancy across infrastructure and construction. In this effort, Robert was the leading author of the inaugural FIDIC Climate Change Charter launched at COP26 in Glasgow last year. As a principal architect of AECOM’s ESG strategy: Sustainable Legacies, Robert is behind some of the most ambitious goals and targets in the industry, which AECOM is now working towards, including: 

  • ScopeX, our AECOM commitment to eliminate up to 50% of the carbon impact from our major projects. 

  • Validated SBTi targets across our Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions, allowing us to claim we are on a 1.5degreee net zero trajectory under the new SBTi Global Standard on Net Zero 

  • The development and company-wide utilisation of an industry leading ESG risk framework for scrutinizing project pursuits across a range of ESG indicators, determining if the potential project aligns with our ESG leadership position and can be bid for 

Robert founded the Infrastructure Decarbonisation Forum in 2019, which provides a collaboration opportunity for the major UK infrastructure operators to share best practice and new approaches on decarbonising their assets across transportation and power. He is also the founding chair of AECOM’s infrastructure circular economy forums, MI-ROG and SICEF, which have published multiple position papers on embedding circular economy approaches into infrastructure procurement and delivery since 2013.   

 

From 2019 to 2021, Robert led the AECOM Buildings and Places practice in the UK to develop a highly challenging new set of Net Zero performance metrics and design approaches and tools, backed up by a comprehensive decarbonisation training curriculum for the 3,000+ strong business. Now with some of the most ambitious commitments published in the UK consultancy market, the team is currently making our training modules available to clients, to accelerate the learning, language and approaches for getting to a Net Zero built environment, globally.
 

Corporate Sustainability Team 

In January 2020, Robert established the Global Corporate Sustainability team at AECOM comprising Ryan Burrows (Global Sustainability Manager), Lucy Bradbury (Sustainability and Training Manager and Green Teams coordinator) and James Morris (Sustainability Analyst). This was the first time at AECOM that a dedicated team of practitioners had been drawn together and budgeted to focus on key internal sustainability workflows including, sustainability target setting, reporting and disclosures and bid support. This is the team that under Robert’s leadership has gone on to establish: 

  1. AECOM’s validated Science-based Targets Initiative 2040 (1.5degrees) Science-based Net Zero milestones and targets and associated decarbonisation programs 

  2. A massive engagement process with our supply chain as part of our Scope 3 emissions reduction plans – bringing them on to a science-based targets approach 

  3. AECOM Forest – a deep horizon, carbon sequestration development programme deploying AECOM’s ‘in house’ natural climate solutions expertise to create our own carbon sinks 

  4. AECOM’s ESG risk framework for evaluating whether new project pursuits align with AECOM’s ESG leadership desire to work with clients and partners on the same ESG pathway as us 

  5. AECOM’s reporting and ESG disclosures aligned with TCFD, SASB, CDP and the UN Global Compact. 

Robert’s team is at the forefront of devising and delivering on AECOM’s dynamic Sustainable Legacies strategy (ESG). Recently the team has gone on to develop a global ESG training curriculum for all 47,000 employees at AECOM, which was successfully completed by 98% of the total AECOM workforce! 

Thought Leadership

Robert holds a Social Selling Index (SSI) score in the top 1% for our industry globally on LinkedIn. He writes a monthly Opinion Piece for BusinessGreen on topical ESG, Net Zero and Sustainable Development issues and also writes regularly for New Civil Engineer, Infrastructure Intelligence, Environment Analyst, the Financial Times and IEMA

Robert plays a leading role in AECOM’s annual Future of Infrastructure publication – the most recent edition was focussed on COP26, where Robert wrote a leader and reviewed the overall technical content 

Robert is comfortable at policy and political forums and speaks regularly for WEEF on behalf of AECOM, e.g. https://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/agenda/Achieving-net-zero-emissions-by-2050-20-agenda.pdf

Summary of wider business and market impact summary (2019 to current): 

  • Chairman of HRH Prince Charles’ Sustainable Markets Initiative – Science working group on Nature Climate Solutions and co-author of its  January 2022 position paper: “Technical advances in assessing natural climate solutions for global carbon markets” 

  • Vice Chair of the FIDIC Sustainable Development Committee and lead author of its 2021Climate Charter, launched at COP26 

  • Founder and executive sponsor of 5-year R&D programme: the award-winning AECOM Natural Capital Laboratory in Scotland 

  • Chairman of the Environmental Industries Commission EIC Natural Capital Task Force and lead author of its position paper: ‘Delivering Environmental Net Gain’ (2019) 

  • Environmental Industries Commission Advisory Board Member 

  • Founding Chairman of the AECOM client forum, the Infrastructure Decarbonisation Forum (InDeFor) and AECOM Circular Economy Forums, MI-ROG and SICEF 

  • Adviser to the CEO of London Luton Airport through the London Luton Airport Limited Green Panel 

  • Leadership contribution to ICE Carbon Project 

  • Member of UK-GBC Whole Life Carbon Steering Group