Net Zero supply chain

Net zero: Is this concept reimagining UK supply chains?


Right now, there is an unprecedented push towards net zero across the UK. Among the most recent, truly remarkable news is an affirmation from the NHS; to becoming ‘carbon net zero’ by 2040.

The NHS’s commitment gives us – and our clients, many of whom supply energy efficient technology to the NHS – much to look forward to. But, there’s another sector where news on supply chain sustainability deserves a little attention: construction.

Who’s doing what on construction and supply chain?

The foreword to Balfour Beatty’s Delivering Net Zero promises offers a welcome vision of greener construction.

‘We are working with our supply chain to ensure that they reduce their emissions. One of the key ways in which we will deliver this is through increasing the use of Modern Methods of Construction and new technology, something which is key to Balfour Beatty’s approach and which will drive lower emissions and faster, safer delivery. But above all, we are working with customers to develop a cradle-to-cradle view of the assets they are commissioning, rather than just considering how they are constructed.’

Such design-centric approaches have long been understood, when implemented correctly, to provide bigger carbon wins than approaches which tag on sustainability lower down the project pipeline.

Mott MacDonald says that net zero will require a substantial scale up of supply chains, strategic co-ordination across multiple sectors and development of significant new capacity to enhance, refit, upgrade and repurpose established infrastructure.

Intriguingly, it highlights the rapid construction of railways from the 1830’s as an example of how new, and at the time revolutionary infrastructure can be delivered at pace; the assertion being net zero need be no different.

The firm advises mapping and evaluation of critical supply chains, to create volume certainty between private and public asset owners.  And there is this, most welcome statement:

‘Investment decisions, procurement and regulation must align to require ever lower lifecycle carbon over time and ultimately lead to zero carbon construction via the development of low carbon variants of materials such as cement, concrete and steel.’

Building supply chains for better

Meanwhile, one can scarcely move for encouraging news in the construction sector on net zero supply chains.

Construction News writes that to avoid transporting large quantities of stone to the site for use in the construction of the ground-bearing floor slab for a new industrial warehouse, contractors have found a way of treating the existing subsoil to improve its strength and durability, drastically reducing transport-related carbon emissions.

The journal argues that by involving contractors and subcontractors down the supply chain in embodied carbon assessments and auditing the findings at every stage of the build, it is possible to more effectively compare and contrast the sustainability benefits of individual design solutions over the full lifespan of a development project.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the journal hints property developers should learn from each other and establish more robust ways of working that involve close supply chain collaboration, as well as the use of scientific metrics and certification. Striving to do more and working together will make net zero targets more achievable.

The Content Coms view

“We are really delighted to see this welcome focus on supply chain and net zero among the UK’s big construction infrastructure and home builders,” comments Joanna Watchman, Founder and CEO, Content Coms.

“Barrett Homes, which is turning its business net zero by 2040, has been approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.

“It will purchase 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and cut carbon emissions from its offices and building sites by 29% in five years. Indirect emissions – those coming from its homes and its supply chain – will reduce by 24% by 2030. This is the precisely the type of news we want to see even more of across the construction sector.”

Elsewhere, Wilmott Dixon is delivering progress against Science Based Targets too. Jonathan Sykes, executive chairman, Carbon Intelligence said, “Willmott Dixon has set the most ambitious science based target in the construction sector by aiming for zero emissions in its operations by 2030 and supply chain by 2040. Its actions will have a significant influence on reducing the climate impact of the built environment in the UK.”

As experts across sustainability in the construction sector, at Content Coms we are pleased to see such encouraging progress. Long may it continue, and indeed long may progress hasten further.

Image credit. Thanks to UNsplash.


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