As Cardno Grows, so Does Its Plan to Better the World

William Roberts's legal expertise ensures that Cardno keeps delivering hundreds of international community programs and sustainable projects across the globe

When you work for a company like Cardno, you have to keep your eye on a lot of moving parts. The professional infrastructure and environmental services company busily works across a multitude of crucial areas in land development, building design, ocean and coastal management and protection, environmental compliance, water treatment, and economic and social development in emerging market countries—and that’s not taking into account that the company is spread across 250 offices in a whopping eighty-five countries.

The global scope guarantees that William Roberts often has his hands full as Cardno’s vice president and general counsel. “Cardno has many entities with thousands of employees working on hundreds of projects every day in the United States and throughout the Americas region,” Roberts says. “A large part of my job is to ensure that each of these moving pieces receives the legal support necessary to ensure the work Cardno is providing is in compliance with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and contractual obligations and is performed safely.”

This massive undertaking does have its perks, though. “This means that no two days are the same, which is invigorating and challenging,” Roberts adds.

“Having such a diverse and global presence demands that all of our leadership be willing to take professional risks to help to set the company’s course and direction.”

Yet like all companies, Cardno started on a smaller scale. Two entrepreneurial-minded engineers, Gerry Cardno and Harold Davies, founded the company, then known as Cardno and Davies, in 1945 in Australia. Today, Cardno has moved from an engineering firm to a global company aiming to develop and shape the futures of communities all across the world.

Its client list includes an assortment of big names in the public sector, as well as private companies in construction, transportation, environment, water resources, waste, telecommunications, international aid, marine and coastal, agricultural, manufacturing, and mining—among others. And with huge-name clients, such as the US Department of Defense, Sydney Airport, Madison Square Garden, and the United Nations, the work isn’t boring at Cardno.

The company aims to creatively help its clients with services that can assist in planning, designing, and managing social and economic infrastructure—with a keen eye toward sustainability. Both of these values—creativity and environmental sustainability—attracted Roberts to Cardno on day one.

“I was drawn to the opportunity to play a part in developing a legal and risk management structure for a company that had rapidly grown into a global enterprise,” Roberts says. “I liked the concept that Cardno focused on fostering innovation and creativity as a critical part of ensuring the success of the business.”

He also appreciated Cardno’s approach to incorporate the principles of sustainability when designing solutions to economic, social, environmental, and cultural issues in its projects. “I think that a model that seeks to be both environmentally and financially sustainable is truly part of that spirit of innovation,” he says.

Not surprisingly, these core company values attracted likeminded people, such as Roberts, to Cardno. And with such a large, global workforce, having the right employees is crucial to the company’s overall mission.

“I would describe Cardno’s culture as a global team of smart, talented, and dedicated professionals working tirelessly to perform at the best
of their abilities,” Roberts says. “I have found that there is a consistent principle of conduct to take responsibility for our actions and focus on the solutions rather than the problems we may face.”

In fact, Roberts considers developing and staffing his extraordinarily talented Americas regional legal team as one of his greatest accomplishments to date at Cardno. A diverse, global presence is a vital element to both Cardno and Roberts.

“During my time at Cardno, I have seen a strong commitment to respect among individuals and encouraging greater diversity throughout our business,” Roberts says. “I also believe that we have continually sought to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship in our teams and actively share that knowledge and expertise with all of our colleagues across the globe.”

Working across the world, however, isn’t always the easiest feat. Aside from the standard challenges of juggling time zones and languages—Cardno reports employees speak more than one hundred different languages—navigating differing cultural customs and behaviors can often be challenging.

“What may be readily acceptable, and in some cases expected, in one area may not be in another,” Roberts says. “Having such a diverse and global presence demands that all of our leadership be willing to take professional risks to help to set the company’s course and direction.”

Though professional risks are a valuable element to the company, Cardno prides itself on the fact that none of its employees has to take on undue physical risk. Safety is a vibrant element of the company’s mission, as it spearheads so many large development projects. For starters, Cardno has a policy that mandates it conduct a risk assessment before every potentially hazardous activity.

“Cardno has consistently sought to improve safety across the business, and it remains one of our highest priorities,” Roberts says. “We actively encourage employees to be involved in making work safer. We work hard to ensure our professionals have the ability to readily share information that could make a difference to safety and embrace a reporting culture where all safety issues are promptly reported and addressed.”

It is this respect for its team members and clients that is part of the fuel pushing Cardno to the top of the global leaders in professional services. When working with clients in
another country, Cardno aims to hire locally and closely collaborate with the community during its project. In addition, employees often contribute philanthropically to the country, and Cardno strives to reduce any environmental impact with its core sustainability initiatives.

Yet Roberts only sees the company going higher with a strategic and long-term combination of organic growth, targeted acquisitions, and focused areas of professional expertise. “I believe as Cardno continues to grow, it will build upon its trusted relationships with all stakeholders for long-term mutual benefit and encourage teamwork throughout our business,” he says.

But for Roberts, just as it is for the entire company, growing larger financially isn’t the main priority if Cardno cannot continue its commitment to reflecting community standards of openness and integrity. Roberts believes it’s a fundamental promise that Cardno will deliver, and as general counsel, he ensures it will always be in accordance with legal, social, environmental, and shareholder responsibilities.

“Most importantly, I believe Cardno will work to expand its efforts with international development assistance areas including community development, global health issues and rehabilitation,” Roberts says. As Cardno continues to grow, so does its commitment to give back to the world.