Construction companies struggle to reduce carbon footprint in supply chain

4 Oct 2015

UK construction firms’ carbon reduction plans have been called into question with many failing to take basic steps to decrease carbon emissions and energy use, new research has found.

In a market survey, 68% of UK construction firms said managing carbon emissions and energy consumption was going to be a bigger priority in 2015.

However, two-fifths (40%) had no programme in place to monitor their own carbon emissions and energy use.

Further, almost three-quarters (74%) did not monitor the carbon emissions or energy use of their main suppliers – despite these contractors being involved in carbon and energy-intensive activities such as concrete pours; fleet use and transportation; and demolition and clearing of sites.

The market survey was commissioned by Achilles, which operates BuildingConfidence, a pre-qualification and accreditation scheme, including standardised questions on carbon, which is used by 19 major UK construction firms. Achilles also runs CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) in the UK. It allows companies to measure their greenhouse gas emissions, put in place reduction plans and gain independent certifications. The survey was conducted by independent research company IFF, which interviewed 35 large UK construction companies, all with more than 250 employees.

The findings show construction firms need to take action if they want to meet the Construction 2025 target to lower the industry’s carbon emissions by 50%. The same report also sets a target for the industry to become “dramatically more sustainable through its efficient approach to delivering low carbon assets more quickly and at a lower cost, underpinned by strong, integrated supply chains and productive long-term relationships”.

The results also come when many construction companies are beginning to track their energy use under ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) – the UK’s response to an EU agreement to cut emissions by 20% by 2020. The legislation, which came into effect at the beginning of the year, requires firms to audit energy use, identify a cost-effective energy savings scheme and notify the Environment Agency by 5 December.

Stephen Marshall, Community Manager for Achilles BuildingConfidence, said: “The pressure is mounting for construction companies to get to grips with tackling carbon emissions and energy use – but many are still suffering from a void of information about their own impact and that of their suppliers.

“At a time when energy bills are rising sharply, and construction margins are becoming ever tighter, the smartest firms are cutting energy consumption as a way of cutting costs, as well as carbon.”

“Construction firms can ‘lead by example’ and implement programmes to monitor emissions – because you cannot improve what you cannot measure.”

“Up to 60% of construction firms’ revenue is spent with suppliers and main contractors can really accelerate progress by working collaboratively with suppliers to achieve carbon reduction goals. For example, some firms are now actively seeking local subcontractors in order to reduce travel emissions while others are prefabricating large building components offsite.”


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Rebecca Bantoft

Global Head of Corporate Communications & Events

  • +44 (0)1235 838134
  • +44 (0)7931 374627
  • rebecca.bantoft@achilles.com

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