CH2M HILL Answers Call for a More Sustainable Future
September 1, 2010
By Continental Airlines
Lee McIntire has always been interesting in green living. "I've been on my own journey to be sensitized to this fragile planet of ours and its resource limitations," he says. But the environment became a passion more than 20 years ago when he first learned about the concept of sustainability. Fortunately for him, after stints at several companies and a teaching position at the University of California Davis, McIntire landed at the helm of CH2M HILL, a $6.3 billion company based in Englewood, Colo., whose 23,500 employees share his commitment to the environment.
As chairman and CEO of CH2M HILL, McIntire leads a company that manages thousands of projects and programs around the world related to water, transportation, industry, energy, and infrastructure. Ranging in size from minuscule to massive, the company's projects include the expansion of the Panama Canal and the construction of about $4 billion worth of sports venues for the 2012 London Olympics. What they all have in common is a focus on sustainability and the benefits it can provide.
"We have our own specific way of looking at sustainability," McIntire points out. When the concept came into vogue, it was viewed as a sort of three-legged stool. Sustainable projects were expected to provide positive economic, environmental, and social impacts beyond the project. While that concept is still widely embraced, McIntire maintains that sustainability is also about resources — specifically water, energy, and carbon — and the ties that bind them.
Water is essential. "You can't build a project anymore where water isn't considered a really important element," says McIntire, who was named CEO of CH2M HILL in January 2009. Indeed, before a power plant or a big industrial facility is built, water is often the first and most important consideration.
The problem is that aquifers around the world are in crisis, which poses a big challenge in developing countries. McIntire notes that hundreds of millions of women carry water on their heads an average of a quarter mile each morning, and the water they bring home to their families is sometimes unclean. "That can cause health problems and be debilitating to local economies," he says. CH2M HILL works to address this issue through its involvement with organizations like Water for People, Engineers Without Borders-USA, and others.
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