Isabel McAllister, Director of Responsible Business at Mace
Mace People

Isabel McAllister

Director

Responsible Business, UK

With over 20 years’ of experience, Isabel’s passion for driving value to society through the industry sees her leading Mace’s responsible business efforts and influencing change across the world.

What led you to Mace?
I wanted a career that allowed me to actively address pollution and climate change, and working in the built environment was the best way to address those challenges.

I was fortunate that as I started my career, sustainable building and construction was becoming better understood and was a growing market. I got to work on some mega projects as a client adviser and wrote a lot of policy and regulation. I then became an expert in costing green buildings and that was when Mace found me.
Why Mace?
Mace offered me a blank sheet of paper role and I had the support of the Group Board to develop and deliver a full programme of activity. We’ve achieved a massive amount but as Mace sits in a very influential space, there’s so much opportunity to do a lot more. We have an ambitious strategy but our people are 100% behind us; they believe in doing the right thing and every day I’m proud of the ideas and efforts from across the company.
What motivates you?
As a teenager I recognised that I would need to apply myself to something with purpose and see practical application in what I do, and that hasn’t changed. I enjoy what I do because it delivers positive outcomes that have purpose. 

In the 90’s I studied climate science and various other topics that are now common place. The same topics now dominate business and government agendas which is so exciting! There is still so much that needs to change and I’m easily motivated because the world of responsible business changes every day.
Why is being a responsible business so important?
It’s the right thing do. Creating opportunities for communities to thrive sits at the very heart of what Mace believes in and it’s vital that where we potentially add to sustainability problems that we seek alternatives. Where the answers exist there should be no excuses and where they don’t we should be part of finding the solution.

It’s a myth that it costs companies to be responsible. Sustainable measures are nearly always cost effective, and without a doubt, responsible businesses recruit easier and retain people better. 

If you’re not a responsible business that positively contributes to society then you won’t exist for much longer. If you want to work with the best clients and attract the best people you have to be in that space.
What has been your favourite recent achievement at Mace?
Can I have two? In 2017 we signed up to RE100 – committing to 100% renewable energy by 2022. We were the first construction company to sign up and I’m really proud of how far we’ve come already. And in 2018 we reduced single-use plastics across our offices by 80% and on our construction sites by 20%. Everyone got right behind the initiative and they still are so we’re setting new, tougher targets.
How will the world of 'responsible business' change over the next five years?
There will be a more consistent will to invest in communities and hard to reach people, but first the industry needs to better understand how we can work together to make change happen on a bigger scale. We should not be operating behind closed doors if we really care about doing the right thing. 

Low carbon procurement will be the next non-negotiable. We all need to stop using diesel and other fossil fuels, and we need to align ourselves with suppliers that actively want to evolve and innovate, and work with clients that are part of that ambition.
If you hadn't got into this line of work what do you think you might be doing?

I’m a wannabe medic. I did a mature student access course in my 20s and took the exams but I failed the final exam by 1%. On the bright side, serendipity intervened and my career is better than I ever could have imagined and I’m very happy I’ve ended up where I am now.

Isabel McAllister, Director of Responsible Business at Mace

“The industry needs to better understand how we can work together to make change happen on a bigger scale. We should not be operating behind closed doors if we really care about doing the right thing.”