How to build a sustainability culture in the construction industry

How to build a sustainability culture in the construction industry

“Creating a sustainability culture in the construction industry involves going “above and beyond” expectations”, concluded a recent webinar on embedding sustainability cultures in companies.

The webinar sponsored by Reconomy, highlighted some of the overarching challenges and opportunities facing the sector in the drive to lower carbon emissions, waste, and resource usage. Construction is at a crossroads, and reinvigorated by unprecedented technological advancements and game-changing energy innovations, the sector now has a unique opportunity to ensure green business lies at the core of its future progress.

At the same time, 40% of carbon emissions are from the built environment, 60% of material use, and a third of all waste in the UK comes from the construction industry, so there is also urgency about moving forward with a sustainability agenda – something the speakers were all keen to stress.

Focus on the people and social value

One of the key takeaways from the webinar was how a company’s people – and its greater social value targets – form an intrinsic, vital element of the overall sustainability culture within construction firms.

Alastair Mantof the UK Green Business Council highlighted the UKGBC’s own research that showed more than half of its gold leaf members now measured the social value of the firm – and 38% also measured wellbeing of staff in the workplace.

He described it as the “hot topic” of the industry, and social value was a very new area where the public and private sector needed to pull together to make it a success.

Working with the supply chain and subcontractors are crucial to embed a holistic sustainability culture. There is no point setting long-term carbon reduction commitments if there isn’t a “supporting culture that drives the motivation and leadership we need, the discussion concluded.

Making the most of new technology

The discussion also highlighted the need for using innovative machinery and technology at the forefront of the construction industry to create a sustainability culture. Diesel power is the “dominant challenge” for the business, and while energy usage elsewhere had been switched to renewables, when it came to diesel-powered plant and lifting kit, this was a still “a huge part of [the] power load.

It is necessary to apply innovation to create a sustainability culture and Willmott Dixon had created a taskforce to do this and investigated “any opportunity to improve material use, methods of construction, or reductions in use” of plastics, aggregate alternatives and other supplies.

The firm explained it had worked with everyone, including its preferred cabin supplier onsite, to see how elements of the business could be made more resource and energy efficient.

Strengthen what you already have – and collaborate

One of the core conclusions from the webinar was to strengthen the existing culture. Elements such as a nature and biodiversity strategy – which 44% of UKGBC gold leaf members had applied – was “really going up the agenda” in light of the forthcoming Environment Bill and consultation on net-gain biodiversity for all developments.

The challenges of creating a sustainability culture and achieving zero carbon on all new buildings by 2030 – and all buildings by 2050 – could not be done alone.

The way to build on a sustainability culture is to shape the attitudes and beliefs of people within the firm and “tap into the unseen aspects of culture” and get people to “think like entrepreneurs” when it came to sustainability, creating a culture of “competitiveness and action” on the issue.

Best practice – and learning from each project

Jamie Roberts from sponsor Reconomy, which provide outsourced recycling and resource management services, concluded “It’s about everyone getting involved and striving to make something different.”

Edie’s latest “Mission Possible” insight report which focuses on the construction sector, demonstrates the steps that must be taken for construction firms to scale-up action across all areas of sustainable development. Specifically, the report explores exactly how organisations within the construction sector should be working, innovating and collaborating to achieve a sustainable future.

Read the report here.

Further information

March 27, 2019
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