Sakshi Bansal is a strategy consultant and sustainability advisor for Arup with a MSc in Psychology and the recipient of The Diana Award – the highest civilian award for humanitarian work across the globe. 

She is also the world’s first UNESCO Kindness Leader based on her work as the founder of Project LEAP: a social service project with over 300 volunteers based in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, pan Africa, Australia and New Zealand,  which delivers capability development training to climate activists and sustainability leaders around the world.

Sakshi has worked from grassroots, to policy, to private sector and governmental agencies across various industries such as technology, economic reform, renewable energy and the transport. She has published a model on ESG client engagement strategy and co-authored a book on organisational resilience. She is a keynote speaker at various conferences, including presenting at the UN General Assembly in New York and, just this month, Sakshi presented at the Women in BIM Conference London 2024.

We caught up with Sakshi after the conference to ask her what inspires her and what brought her to the construction industry. 

What inspires you?

The idea of moving beyond the obvious. After studying psychology, I am always intrigued by pushing the boundaries, particularly when it comes to sustainability, this is where innovation happens.

Plus, meeting new people always excites me. Everyone, no matter what their background is, has the ability to be inspirational. Young people in particular – their ability to make shareholders, bureaucrats, business owners, industry leaders listen is admirable. Young people are unwilling to just accept things: they question, they challenge, and they look at things unjaded. Moving forward this is going to be explosive, and the young people of today are going to change the world. 

What was your pathway to the construction industry?

By accident! I was simply following my passions and said yes to something that I had no idea would have a monumental impact on my career at the time

I told myself I would say a series of yeses to new opportunities, one of which led me to Arup.

I have always been interested in how people move between spaces and places, and transitioning to the built environment seemed like a logical step. When we think about it, everything is connected to a built asset. How we live, work and educate – our world revolves around buildings and spaces.

Growing up in India – surrounded by majestic palaces and incredible hospitality in Rajasthan – properties have always had a strong influence in my life; particularly seeing the building stock of property in India transform over the past few decades, with architecture becoming more beautiful and yet more complex. This drives an even stronger need to consider sustainability, for reuse and repurpose of building materials. Construction waste is a major issue, and the overflow of waste can unleash many extreme environmental hazards.

What would you say is your definition of sustainability? 

Sustainability has inclusion as its heart. Sustainability not only covers the environment of nature, but the environment of an organisation. Sustainability is about people and how they shape the culture – including the culture of an organisation. When it comes to sustainability and the new age workers, we should remember that organisations are no longer the traditional triangular structures, but are cylindrical shaped, where leaders exist at the bottom of the organisation as well as the top – people who care about sustainability and specific causes. This is a powerful resource to tap into when it comes to thinking and the dissemination of a sustainable culture. 

The other important part of sustainability is money and how we can make sustainability investable and move the financial sector. Within that is the role of ESG assessments. I often think that there is too much emphasis on E in ESG, while the S suffers from the middle child syndrome and the G is hard to understand. S and G pillars are about people who are critical in helping us transition towards sustainable goals.

What comes next for ESG?

ESG in construction has historically been isolated. However, now with climate action being an emergency and net zero target deadlines rapidly approaching, separating ESG simply won’t meet social, economic or environmental demands. We need to accelerate ESG actions and make people are the heart of it. Things need to change.

Change can only take place when we create a global dialogue with everyone on the same page. Unified action and shared information with regional insights will prevent fragmentation. Digital data solutions have a big role to play in this, and that is what I shared in my talk at the Women in BIM Conference earlier this month. How bridging the gap between the perceptions of sustainability and ESG, can be achieved through shared knowledge and the use of data. Plus, what I have learned in this space so far and what data is required to make construction truly sustainable.

The construction industry needs to shift its strategic thinking and adopt a more holistic approach by delivering strategies for social and governance issues, as well as environmental ones. 

To connect with Sakshi and understand more about her work as an ESG advisor, go to Sakshi’s LinkedIn page

Nicole De Cicco
Nicole De Cicco

I am the Global Administrator for Women in BIM. I support all of our global communications including managing events, as well as supporting & promoting our Regional Leads.