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Arcadis Director Melania Santoro discusses inclusive city design

Arcadis Director Melania Santoro discusses inclusive city design

 July 15, 2022

As part of the Association of Civil Engineers (ACEBuilding Inclusivity campaign, Arcadis Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB) Portfolio Director Melania Santoro shares how Arcadis is creating an environment that promotes inclusivity. 


"There's a huge value in differences in the workplaces and at Arcadis we always encourage people to be themselves at work, embracing an open and unique outlook on life from every one of our employees. After all, the best creative and innovative thinking for clients comes from individual diversity and a supportive, dynamic work environment," explains Melania.

"Equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging are key pillars for improving quality of life, and it’s important that companies work closely with people from all range of human differences, visible and non-visible, including but not limited to, race, national origin or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, social class, physical or mental ability, attributes, experiences, strengths, skills, perspectives, work styles, religious or ethical values system, citizenship status, veteran status, and political beliefs. But how do companies create an environment that promotes inclusivity?"

The Arcadis workforce reflects society as a whole

"Teams with a variety of backgrounds, cultures and experiences are more likely to be innovative, leading to enhanced problem-solving. It’s certainly true that a workforce that reflects our society as a whole builds inclusive solutions, mitigating stereotypes and unconscious and conscious biases. Furthermore, inclusive solutions create commercial opportunities for untapped markets, essentially expanding a company’s customer base," she adds.

Societal impact and engineering free of biases

"City design needs to be guided by an ethical framework to address how spaces and projects can directly affect communities. Companies must identify potentially vulnerable groups and urban inequality when delivering designs. Addressing vulnerability to socio-economic factors as part of a city design results in equitable procurement and distribution of services," continues Melania.

"We understand the links between economic inequality and the built environment and that the poorest people tend to live in the least healthy environments, with the greatest likelihood of environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution. They are, consequently, less safe and less healthy. Building communities that are sustainable and socially cohesive requires the understanding of complex factors, that include a mixture of social, cultural and economic relationships between faith, class and race, wealth and poverty and across generations. Good design and place management can contribute to a sense of belonging and can foster good relations between, and within, communities."

Inclusive design

"Inclusive design is a design process in which a product, service or environment is designed to be usable for as many people as possible, particularly groups who are traditionally excluded and potentially vulnerable. To design inclusive cities, innovation needs to be thoughtful, considered, and all-embracing. Accessibility principles, such as land management, housing, basic public services, and the use of public space must all be considered. This is where involvement of vulnerable groups not usually included in the design and planning process can really make a difference" comments Melania.

The supply chain

"Inclusive procurement is the process of diversifying the supply chain by choosing to do business with newer, smaller or innovative suppliers. It’s all about creating a supplier mix that is innovative, forward-thinking and resilient," says Melania.

"Companies should make intentional efforts to introduce diverse suppliers to increase opportunities around the world, inclusive diverse team hires and reinvestment in local communities."

What will you do differently?

"Following these steps will bring your company closer to inclusivity, but it’s important to remember to always call out bias in your business, with both clients and suppliers. Slow down your thinking, ask questions to all your stakeholder, particularly your potentially vulnerable groups to bring in other perspectives. Rethinking our teams, designs and approaches mean that everyone can feel like they belong," concludes Melania.


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