The Covid-19 pandemic has set challenges for everyone in construction but it has also engendered a sense of collaboration and resourcefulness that I hope will remain long into the future.
A greater level of flexibility and cooperation has been required as all parties have sought to maintain productivity in the most demanding of circumstances.
I believe therefore that the construction ecosystem – like many other industries that have experienced similar groundswells of co-operation and mutual support – is now better placed to work together in tackling the climate emergency.
In 2018, the Morgan Sindall Group voluntarily committed to setting science-based carbon targets and was the first UK construction company – and third worldwide – to have its targets verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). By setting these targets, we’ve been able to contribute to keeping rising temperatures below those in the Paris Agreement and ensure our business sets stretching goals to support the fight against climate change.
Morgan Sindall Group has achieved a 64% reduction in emissions (Scope 1, 2 and operational Scope 3) since 2010, and our carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per unit of energy consumed – has been cut by 75% over the same period. Earlier this year, Morgan Sindall Group also set a goal of net zero by 2030.
Yet like many other companies from a range of sectors that have already taken action to decarbonise their facilities and operations (Scope 1 and 2), the majority of our climate impact is now located outside of our direct control. In order to keep improving our performance, it’s absolutely imperative that we reduce the Scope 3 indirect emissions that occur in our value chain. This approach is therefore reflected in the way we have developed our new carbon reduction strategy, Decarbonising Communities.
Our strategy reflects that within construction, any given project can only be as successful as the supply chain that has helped deliver it. While leading contractors may grab the headlines when a gleaming tower or sports stadium is built, it is the bricklayers, engineers and plumbers – among many others – that are the unsung heroes, creating the built environment in which we live, learn, work, care, play and protect.
Decarbonising the construction process will be the most important project that any of us work on. While it is a vastly different endeavour to our usual work, just like with any other project, collaboration and a commitment to knowledge sharing is essential. We need our suppliers, manufacturers and subcontractors to come with us on this journey so we can tap into each other’s expertise and know how. This sharing of intelligence, experience and insight is the only way we can collectively unlock the construction industry’s vast potential in helping to preserve the natural world for future generations.
In practical terms, this will be delivered by ensuring our supply chain are equipped with the requisite knowledge regarding carbon reduction, and helping them to understand the pressures our industry is facing to address the climate change emergency at both a corporate and a project level. Where appropriate, Morgan Sindall Construction will also be setting minimum carbon standards for the companies we work with.
We have developed a carbon maturity framework which will enable our supply chain to forward plan their own carbon strategies and carbon reduction support our customers. This matrix ranges from Level 1, which will see key members of staff within each supply chain organisation receive some basic training on carbon in the built environment to Level 5, by which time the organisation will have set and had verified a Science Based Target and will be adapting their organisation around circular economy principles.
Additionally, it’s important to stress that the transfer of knowledge with the supply chain isn’t just a one-way process. More than ever we need to engage more collaboratively to deliver projects for our clients in ways that generate much lower carbon emissions during project delivery and each building’s entire lifecycle. We want to learn from the trade experts on what products, technologies and materials we can use that will help our clients take ownership of more carbon friendly and sustainable buildings than ever before.
We are now only months away from COP26 in Glasgow. For many the summit represents the last chance for global leaders to take the action required in order to save the planet. Yet rather than waiting for global leaders to tell us what to do next, it is incumbent on leading businesses of all varieties to show real leadership themselves and to work with their supply chains now in order to educate, inspire and empower them in order to make the decisions that will deliver the environmental change the world urgently needs.
☛ Louise Townsend is head of social value and sustainability at Morgan Sindall Construction