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Building on our DEI commitment through Construction Inclusion Week

While dignity, equity and inclusion play important roles in Pepper's processes and policies every day, this year we chose to emphasize our commitment by participating in the second annual Construction Inclusion Week. More than 5,000 companies registered to participate in this national program that was held October 17-21, 2022.

Its ongoing objective is to build awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by providing content and resources that foster conversations, create alignment and grow our industry's culture to be truly inclusive. 


The purpose of Construction Inclusion Week:

  • To stand united in setting expectations and promoting consistent behavior.
  • To champion inclusion that empowers us to reach our full potential, fueling innovation and connection with our employees, clients and communities we serve
  • To harness and leverage the capabilities and global reach of the construction industry and its affiliates, to cultivate and perpetuate diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Construction Inclusion Week programming and resources are designed to support companies regardless of where they stand on the journey toward diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Some firms are just beginning to explore these concepts while others, like Pepper Construction, have clearly stated our commitment to remove any trace of racism and discrimination from our company's internal and external practices. To advance that commitment, we are investing in five strategic pillars that will help move our company and our industry forward:

These pillars fit well with the five activity themes that the Construction Inclusion Week team developed and around which their shared resources and content are based.


Each Pepper office took ownership of one of the themes and suggested programming that could be adjusted as needed and implemented locally. In addition, the teams worked together on other activities that could be incorporated at any point throughout the week. Each day, local company presidents announced that day's theme and encouraged participation in the associated activities. This engagement both within Pepper and with our partners allowed us to further advance our inclusion efforts. 

"As we continue to grow our offices, we're being intentional and building a team with diverse backgrounds, experience and ideas. We nurture inclusivity in the workplace because it reflects our values as a company. That focus and intentionality also helps us better support the communities and clients we serve and be a better partner to the trades who help us deliver great projects. Construction Inclusion Week activities gave us space and time to reflect on our values, learn more about inclusion and equity, and identify ways Pepper can build a more inclusive workplace."

Commitment and Accountability

Construction Inclusion Week's perspective: To fully realize a culture of inclusion and belonging requires both leadership commitment and accountability to us and others. Neither leadership nor accountability are top-down but rather shared responsibilities that each of us regardless of role, title or position can actively demonstrate.  There are lots of examples and definitions for leadership. But at its most basic level leadership is the ability to influence others towards achieving a goal. Accountability is owning and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. When these are put in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion, it means we all have a part to play by modeling the behavior we want to see in others.  

Pepper's participation: Each Pepper office held a morning meeting to kick off Construction Inclusion Week and reflect on what diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging mean to our team members personally. Using an online survey tool, we also asked them to share three words or phrases that align with their beliefs and experiences with DEIB. These words were then used to create a Wordle that was posted throughout the offices, with larger words signifying the ones that were mentioned most often.



Construction Inclusion Week's perspective: Education and understanding the implications of unconscious bias is critical to cultivating a culture of inclusion and belonging.  Belonging is that sense you get that you are a valued member of a community. When people feel that they are part of a community, they feel a sense of purpose.Postits

Pepper's participation: With the increase in awareness and understanding of diversity initiatives in recent years, we need to keep in mind both the corporate components and the individual ones that were brought forward through the Commitment and Accountability exercises outlined above. For example, diversity is much more than DEI and our five pillars highlight the all-encompassing nature of the efforts. Similarly, like inclusion, belonging is an output of the efforts we put into making something more diverse and equitable. If people feel they are somehow "other" and stand apart from their colleagues within an organization, it can cause them to question if they belong at a company, which can lead to retention and performance challenges.

People often feel this way due to unconscious biases held by their peers or management that may be directed at them. The day's voluntary activity, where data was not collected and participation was not tracked, was designed to help people identify and frame their own bias and form a deeper understanding of their own attitudes and beliefs. Employees had the option to access a self-assessment tool that has been used globally to understand how attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases influence behavior, thought and decision making.

Getting to a place where every team member not only feels a sense of belonging, but also recognizes the role they can play in helping others feel the same way will support Pepper's efforts on two of our five Pepper Strategic DEI Pillars:

Pillar 3:  Attract Diverse Team Members

Pillar 4:  Enhance the Employee Experience

Supplier Diversity

Construction Inclusion Week's perspective: Supplier diversity is a business practice that refers to the inclusion of businesses owned by diverse individuals or groups in the procurement of goods and services. A diverse supplier is generally defined as a business that’s at least 51% owned and operated by an individual that’s part of a traditionally underrepresented or underserved group. Common classifications are minority-owned business enterprises (MBE), woman-owned business enterprises (WBE), and small-business enterprises (SBE). Businesses owned by other minority groups, such as LGBQT+, veterans and persons with disabilities, may also be considered diverse suppliers. 

Pepper's participation: Pepper is continuously working to expand our vendor pool and supplier diversity program—not just for projects that have participation goals and requirements—but on every project. Expanding our network to include diverse partners can offer greater competition between suppliers, provide access to new procurement channels and drive innovation as well as contribute to local economies.

On this day, offices were encouraged to invite diverse regional partners to offer onsite "Lunch and Learns" at each location. Employees could participate in person or online through a Teams meeting. Examples of participating minority-owned firms include BWI, Ochoa Mechanical Group and Abaxent. In addition, we hosted OhioMBE, a publication that focuses on minority-owned businesses, to discuss the struggle these companies face and how Pepper and other large contractors can help.

Workplace Culture

Construction Inclusion Week's perspective: Establishing and maintaining a positive workplace culture means that everyone gets to experience a workplace that is inclusive and respectful. We also know that a good culture leads to increased safety and more productivity, providing higher value to our clients and allowing each and every worker to perform their best work. 

Simply said: When it comes to workplace culture, it must be practiced and lived daily. Everyone must embrace it rather than just talk about it.

Pepper's participation: Any initiative where an organization hopes to get traction needs to begin and end with its culture. At Pepper we approach DEI from multiple avenues, but our culture focused on respect and dignity is a solid foundation that we rely on to inform our daily decisions and actions. We used our "culture" day as an opportunity to remind employees of Pepper's commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging by reviewing the five Pillars of Diversity and facilitating discussions within each office about how efforts built around the pillars can continue to evolve while remaining tied to and supported by our core beliefs and values. 

Community Engagement 

Construction Inclusion Week's perspective: Creating a more diverse and inclusive construction industry will not happen overnight, but there are actions we can take now to inspire the next generation of builders. Our industry has a great number of career and educational pathways that can lead to success. Currently, there isn’t a lot of information for students about these pathways. Some people swing hammers, but many don’t! Students from all backgrounds, and with a wide range of aspirations, can find a challenging and rewarding path to prosperity in the construction industry.

Third grade is the perfect age for students to learn about careers in construction, especially from people who look like them and they can relate to. 

Pepper's participation: Visiting different elementary schools gave Pepper team members a chance to share their perspectives on working in the construction industry and to get students excited about their potential career paths. Examples of school's visited include a third-grade classroom at the John Hay Community Academy in Chicago and a second-grade classroom at Lockland City Schools outside of Cincinnati. In addition, we also distributed construction-themed coloring books for schools to share with younger students.

These visits were very well received and enjoyed by the students, staff and Pepper teams. We hope to make this an ongoing effort by visiting new classes while remaining in touch with students who have a strong interest in any of the construction-related fields as they progress through middle and high school. 

The connection between DEI and Safety

In addition to the programs created and recommended by the Construction Inclusion Week team, Pepper created additional efforts that are connected to other key cultural priorities. 

Pepper’s robust safety culture includes being aware of the diversity, equity and inclusion of our workforce and partners because disparities in language, training and understanding can create mental and physical barriers to safety and drive communication gaps that may result in injury or even death.  Add in some unconscious bias and stereotyping, and we have a potentially high-stakes lack of awareness that could lead to disaster.

Our safety culture is embedded in Pepper’s overall belief that we should treat each other with respect, dignity and kindness. Our diversity efforts are similarly aligned. Regardless of who anyone is - or isn’t - on a job site, we need to look out for each other to keep everyone safe.

The construction industry takes a unique approach to both DEI and Safety by encouraging dozens of companies to put aside their competitive nature and work together to move the needle forward. For example, Pepper is involved with the Associated General Contractors of America's Culture of CARE initiative, and we have taken a pledge to do the following:

  • Commit to hire and pay based on skill and experience regardless of age, ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.
  • Attract prospective employees by creating inclusive workplaces that are free from harassment, hazing and bullying.
  • Retain high-performing employees by identifying and removing barriers to advancement.
  • Empower every employee to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.

In further support of this safety connection, we organized a group of operations and field staff to participate in Tool Box Talks for 15 minutes every morning during Construction Inclusion Week. A facilitator was chosen each day to select the topic and facilitate a discussion that could lead to action or simply increased awareness.

One of the best experiences during these five talks happened on the first day when a client joined the conversation. They complimented Pepper and specifically the field team working on their project for living out what we were discussing on a daily basis. It was a perfect way to help kick off the week and may lead to further discussions with other clients and opportunities for sharing and collaboration. 

While this was Pepper's first year participating in Construction Inclusion Week, we are proud to be a part of the program's year-two growth. We are confident, based on the feedback we've received both internally and externally, that we will remain involved as our focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging continue to evolve and our industry continues to benefit across the country.