Under the Paris Agreement, the UK is committed to keeping the rise in global temperatures to two degrees, with 1.5 degrees being set as the target. But this goal is beginning to slip away – in order to maintain it, emissions must be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
One of the key sectors that can help the UK reach this goal is construction. According to the UK Green Building Council, construction activities contribute to 10% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. This figure rises to a staggering 45% when the whole built environment sector is taken into account.
The potential for cutting emissions in this sector is also huge. In the report Reducing the footprint of the construction process by the CIOB, it is estimated that making on-site construction accommodation more energy efficient could lead to an annual carbon reduction of 200,000 tonnes. Switching to renewable transport and ensuring more fuel-efficient freight driving could also save 180,000 tonnes of carbon.
As a result, the government is seeking to incentivise construction firms into pledging themselves to net zero targets by restricting bids for public contracts worth £5 million or more.
From September, construction firms wishing to bid for this work will need to commit to a net zero target in addition to publishing a carbon reduction plan. The latter must set out where their emissions originate and any environmental management measures that the firm has in place.
Scoping the environmental impact
The reporting of emissions is not new to the industry – some have already been required to report scope one and scope two emissions – but the new requirements mean that some scope three emissions will also need to be reported.
- Scope one refers to direct emissions, such as emissions from company vehicles.
- Scope two covers indirect owned emissions, for example the emissions generated to create the electricity the firm uses.
- Scope three covers emissions such as those incurred by business travel, employee commuting, transportation, distribution and waste. The reporting of these emissions has been given more weight as they represent a notable proportion of a construction firm’s carbon footprint.
Speaking about the new rules, the Minister for Efficiency and Transformation, Lord Agnew, said: “The government spends more than £290 billion on procurement every year, so it’s important we use this purchasing power to help transform our economy to net zero.”
Implementing environmental measures
With growing emphasis on construction firms implementing more environmental measures to control, monitor and measure their environmental impact, creating a framework that allows businesses to identify and then improve their performance is key.
Environmental management systems such as ISO 14001 can certainly help in this case.
By prompting you to examine risks and opportunities, operational procedures and resources, an environmental management system can help construction businesses to reduce waste, improve resource efficiency and cut waste management costs.
As a result, firms can benefit from full compliance with the latest legislation and regulations, an improved reputation and pre-qualification for some tenders.
“ISO 14001 helps organisations to consider all aspects, risks and impacts of their environmental performance, to plan strategically and to implement any ‘quick wins’ possible,” explains Chris Tuffrey, Regional Manager for QMS International. “It helps them to assess, measure and improve. Ultimately, ISO 14001 can lead to cost savings as well as a demonstrable commitment to managing environmental risk.”