Industry Insight – Eyes still on the prize – sustaining sustainability

Continuing to work towards reducing carbon emissions and improving sustainability doesn’t have to be hard work for construction companies.

The Prime Minister’s recent pledge to bring forward the date for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has brought the climate emergency back into the headlines.

But while health, economics and politics have dominated the news agenda, many construction companies haven’t taken their eye off the environmental agenda. The climate emergency must be addressed, irrespective of the other challenges we’ve been presented with this year. We all have a vital part to play, as our sector creates more than 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions.

The BCSA’s Sustainability Charter provides a readymade, realistic framework for steelwork contractors to do their bit. It sets the standard for contractors to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.

Charter Members are required to have in place a range of policies, working practices and certification, ranging from the implementation of policies and environmental impact assessments for process improvement to supply chain sustainability and ethical trading checks. This list isn’t exhaustive, of course.

And just as the list isn’t exhaustive, good contractors, particularly those working to the Charter, know that working responsibly requires thinking past just their stage of a project. Achieving impact requires more than just reducing carbon emissions at build stage, but also designing in embodied carbon to construction materials used and low energy usage once a building is in use.

True sustainability is about more than just the environment though – it is social and financial too. We must ensure our industry itself is sustainable.

Alongside environmental practices, the Sustainability Charter also sets the standard for social responsibility; mandating practices such as equal opportunities policies, structured training and development plans to benefit employees and programmes to work with communities on social issues.

Introduced in 2005, the Charter set the tone for the construction industry and is now complemented by Contractors Declare, a pledge signed by industry-leaders like BAM Construct, Skanska and Willmott Dixon, and Architects Declare, part of the global Construction Declares initiative. They also focus on tackling the climate emergency through commitments to reduce carbon emissions and ensure responsible practices.

Similarly, architects and engineers have joined together to provide a consensus on how they can design new buildings in line with emissions targets, The Climate Emergency Design Guide.

There are some critics, or cynics, though; accusing these pledges of simply paying lip service, or so-called ‘greenwashing’. However, for me the evidence of it being taken seriously is in how more and more main contractors are requiring steelwork contractors to be signed up to the Charter, as we are at Elland Steel.

I firmly believe this collective commitment from across the construction industry is a step in the right direction.

So just as the automotive industry is committing to its new 2030 target, we too will stick to our own aim; actively seeking net zero carbon emissions from steel content by 2050. By working to the BCSA’s Sustainability Charter, we’re working conscientiously and responsibly. We hope many more in the industry will follow suit, to be truly sustainable.

Elland Steel logo on top of building site

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