Why HKS Joined the United Nations Global Compact

By Dan Noble

HKS signed onto the UN Global Compact in January 2019 to join leading global companies in aligning our strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment, anti-corruption, and to take actions that advance societal goals. When we signed the pact, we had no idea how increasingly urgent this pledge would become.

We commit to infusing social responsibility and sustainability into our culture as well as our governance structure. To do this, we will track our corporate objectives and key results in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals form the framework for our Environmental, Social and Governance Report, which we’ve posted to the UN website here. This report outlines the years of commitment and work that we have already completed as well as the work we have yet to do.

We did these things now, this year because now is the time to put words into action. Hope is not a strategy for success. Achieving real change requires us to set definable goals, implement effective processes and track our progress. 

Highlights of our commitments, which are outlined in the report, include:

1. We will leverage our global influence to assist under-served communities through:

  • Fundraising for our 2020 Citizen HKS project, Reimagining Benefield.
  • Our 2020 Month of Service, which is scheduled September 15 — October 15, 2020.
  • Hosting a NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) fellow this summer—and we will continue to do so annually.
  • We will fund our AIA Diversity Scholarship at a higher rate.

2. We will be a design firm that leads in Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) by:

  • Creating our first firm-wide JEDI plan.
  • Increasing the diversity of our Board of Directors.
  • Promoting more diverse candidates.
  • Attracting and retaining a greater number of diverse design professionals.
  • Increasing our engagement and talent acquisition efforts with historically Black colleges and universities.
  • Increasing our investment in firmwide education on unconscious bias and implicit bias.
  • Funding NOMA dues for all employees who want to join.

3. We will design and deliver higher-performance buildings by:

  • Adapting the American Institute of Architects Framework for Design Excellence as our internal measures of design excellence for all HKS projects.
  • Energy modeling every one of our projects. Identifying goals inclusive of energy, carbon and cost reductions.
  • Conducting 24 client-facing eco-charrettes.
  • Reporting all HKS projects to the AIA 2030 Challenge.
  • Conducting a whole building life cycle analysis (LCA) as well as increasing performance analysis and research activities with a focus on embodied carbon.
  • Sharing data on our practice.

4. We will lead our industry in sustainable, socially responsible practice by:

  • Establishing a 501(c)3 to support our public interest design projects, which fall under our Citizen HKS program. This 501(c)3’s mission includes other firm programs and initiatives that fuel design innovation.
  • Creating and sharing a plan for a zero-carbon practice, to include operations and professional services.
  • Conducting periodic firm-wide carbon footprint analysis, identifying improvements and implementing policy adjustments.
  • Transparent industry engagement regarding governance objectives.

HKS is a global architecture, design, planning and advisory practice that touches the lives of millions. It is within our power to make a positive difference in protecting our planet, creating more equitable, sustainable and beautiful communities, and to encourage others to join us on that journey. We are pleased to join the United Nations and our fellow Compact participants in that mission.

And we encourage you to join us, too.

I want to thank our Environmental, Social Governance Team led by our Director of ESG, Rand Ekman, Our Director of JEDI, Yiselle Santos Rivera and our Citizen HKS Director, Julie Wellik for leading us through this effort.

Dan Noble

Dan Noble is President and CEO at HKS. An architect, Dan leads the strategy and development of a global design firm. Under his leadership, the firm has won numerous design awards from organizations such as the World Architecture Festival and Fast Company. Dan values character, purpose and relationships, and instills these values into the firm’s culture.