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Global Companies & 21st Century Sustainability

A discussion with Jacobs, an engineering group that builds partnerships worldwide to help businesses tackle some of their most complex problems

If climate change continues unabated, this is our reality before the century’s end: rising seas, algae-laden oceans, scarcity of clean drinking water, smog-filled skies, dangerous heat temperatures, devastating natural disasters. Watch or read the news and you’re bound to find reports of a warming planet. But amid the doom and gloom, there’s reason for hope: Corporations with global outreach have taken note, and are leading the way to building a more sustainable future. Jacobs, a corporate sponsor of IDEAS For Us, is one such company. Providing a broad range of services—from architectural planning and design to scientific research and testing—Jacobs helps communities work toward a healthier way of living. And that includes not just adapting to climate change but making the best use of public spaces.

The Official IDEAS For Us Podcast – S1E3

It’s hard to imagine—corporations working with Mother Nature to preserve the planet, one where people, communities, thrive. What does it mean for a company to merge industry with renewable resources, urban sprawl with natural environments? This intersection—of people, places and partnerships—is where Jacobs seeks to find solutions to the current climate crisis. In this podcast, we sat down with three Jacobs employees—Dan Kirby, principal and client services leader; Amber Salcedo, mechanical E.I.; and Madeline Almodovar, environmental scientist—to discuss why sustainability is so important in the 21st century. Here are some highlights.

Plan beyond today for a more sustainable tomorrow.

Launched by Jacobs in 2018, PlanBeyond employs the tenets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs, in climate speak) to help cities and communities best adapt to growing population demands and climate change.

Saving the planet means everyone has a voice.

Built on a business model of inclusivity, for which it has received numerous awards, Jacobs boasts several employee networks, including ones for women, LGBTQ+ people, veterans, African Americans, Latinxs and people with physical or cognitive disabilities.

A glimpse of the future: autonomous cars, vertical gardens.

“Everything from dealing with resilience to sea-level rise, it all comes together in a company like ours,” Dan Kirby says. One exciting project in the works is a collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to build a testing facility for autonomous cars; another includes a mixed-use, high-rise project in downtown Orlando that will feature urban vertical farming.

Sustainability and mental health: an oft-overlooked issue.

Jacobs offers employees in-depth training on mental health awareness: how to care for oneself, as well as how to spot warning signs in someone else. “We’re trying to make mental health something that’s not taboo,” Amber Salcedo says. “We want that to be an open conversation, and we want you to get the help you need so that you can bring your whole self to work.”

Solving the imminent ecological crisis will require the efforts not of one person, but of thousands, millions, of people—all working together toward a common goal. More than creating innovative technologies or building eco-friendly infrastructure, Jacobs helps cities not only thrive economically but connect people and places in a way that encourages health and solidarity. After all, Kirby explains, “that is, at its core, the genesis of sustainability: personal health and well-being.”

From left: Clayton Ferrara, executive director of IDEAS For Us, pictured with Madeline Almodovar, Amber Salcedo and Dan Kirby of Jacobs. Photo credit: Ernest Calderon