A Pittsburgh Company with Deep Community Roots Is Embracing CSR – and Reaping the Benefits


New Satell Institute member S&B USA shows why being community-minded is also being company-minded.

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From virtually the day it was founded more than 75 years ago, construction firm Fay established a strong and important presence in the Pittsburgh community. Through the decades the company not only built some of the city’s most iconic landmarks (think: the Water Steps and the Esplanade by PNC Park, to name just two); it provided tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs to carpenters, laborers, pile drivers and more.

Five years ago, Fay launched a new chapter in its history when it became part of S&B USA, a division of leading Israeli infrastructure company Shikun & Binui Ltd. Today, S&B USA — a new member of the Satell Institute’s Pittsburgh chapter, led by CEO Sharon Novak — is a shining example of Corporate Social Responsibility in action. It’s also proof positive that CSR and the Satell Institute, the leading CEO organization dedicated to CSR, make for stronger companies and stronger communities.

“CSR and ESG work allows people to get out of their silos and get to know one another,” says Grant Ervin (pictured, right), S&B USA’s vice president of external affairs and sustainability. And as the company sees more clearly every day, breaking down those walls pays dividends both internally and externally.

At its core, S&B USA specializes in building big stuff — such as roads, bridges, waterways, and dams — with a particular focus on alternative delivery methods, including public-private partnerships. The size and impact of those projects is one of the things that interested Ervin, who previously spent eight years as the city of Pittsburgh’s chief resilience officer, in working for S&B USA.

“What drew me to the company was the commitment to community, to sustainability, and to doing so in large and impactful ways,” says Ervin, who joined S&B USA two years ago. “The infrastructure we build is essential to commerce and our way of life. To be with a company that has the opportunity to have that kind of impact is really attractive.”

In his role, Ervin heads up S&B USA’s ESG initiatives. That means not only putting an emphasis on sustainability when it comes to the company’s efforts, but also forging close ties with communities.

Ervin points to two projects in particular as emblematic of the company’s approach. One is the Fargo-Moorhead project – a 30-mile flood diversion initiative in North Dakota and Minnesota that aims to protect more than a quarter million people and businesses from devastating flooding. It’s the largest climate resilience project in North America. “Our engineering team will call it a big ditch, but really at the core is environmental stewardship and community responsibility,” says Ervin. The project (which has been recognized by Morningstar’s Sustainalytics for its ESG features) features a unique shared-power structure among local governments, and it’s being financed by one of the largest green bonds ever floated in the U.S. “It’s really a hallmark of how construction companies can lead on ESG,” Ervin says.

Closer to S&B USA’s Pittsburgh headquarters is Frankie Pace Park. In its simplest form it’s a highway bridge across Interstate 579, but its impact goes far beyond that. By building a three-acre park with bike and pedestrian trails atop the bridge, the project reconnects the Hill District, a predominately Black neighborhood, with the resources of Pittsburgh’s central business district. This aims to repair an injustice created when the highway opened in the 1950s. The park also collects stormwater, significantly reducing discharge into Pittsburgh’s sewer system.

In addition to its ESG focus, S&B USA has doubled down on its commitment to corporate philanthropy and volunteerism. The firm has partnered with nonprofits like Hello Neighbor, which supports immigrants and refugees settling in Pittsburgh, as well as March of Dimes. Such initiatives are not only good for the community, but also the company — particularly when it comes to appealing to the values and passions of a new generation of employees.

“Ten years ago, when we tried to get people involved in philanthropy, there were only a few of us who participated,” says Katie Spear (pictured, left), the company’s vice president of marketing. “But now, 40 percent of our workforce is new to the company — just-out-of-college engineers and just-out-of-college marketers. And this is exactly what they want to do.”

Employees can also get involved in the committees S&B USA has created to spur its CSR initiatives — including a Community Engagement and Outreach Committee, a Wellness and Fitness Committee, a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and a Social Events Committee.

“You see these new ideas starting to percolate,” Ervin says of the increased employee involvement. “People will start to ask questions: ‘Hey, what if we did…. fill in the blank.’ And it’s because they have that confidence to communicate with people in another sector of the company, and it starts to percolate new ideas and activities.”

S&B USA’s new membership in the Satell Institute is another aspect of its commitment to CSR. Ervin and Spear laugh and say involvement with SI emerged from “six degrees of Pittsburgh” — the close ties that Pittsburgh business people have with one another. Company CEO Sharon Novak was in Leadership Pittsburgh with a contact now at the Satell Institute; within a week or two Spear herself was at a Vibrant Pittsburgh event where she met the same person: Satell Institute regional vice president Becky Flaherty.

The alignment was clear. By joining the fast-growing Satell Institute and becoming part of a group of like-minded organizations, and by regularly coming together with those organizations at various Satell Institute conferences and events, S&B USA would be able to deepen the impact it’s making.

“We are going to be doing more and more philanthropy,” says Spear. “And we just thought it was a good idea to get that coordination and learn what other companies are doing.”

Of course, other companies will learn from S&B USA as well. For a company specializing in infrastructure, it may be the perfect metaphor — a two-way street that benefits everyone.

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