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The SME’s quick guide to Sustainability
Why was this guide created?
This guide seeks to:
Who is it aimed at?
What does the guide do?
What is sustainability?
The most widely used definition of sustainable development is:
“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
It is important to remember that sustainability covers a lot more than just environmental factors – economic and social aspects are also key parts of sustainability
Media coverage tends to focus on the negative environmental impacts of development, reflecting the rapid progress in scientific research and rising public interest on the subject of climate change.
However, a healthy and stable economy is vital if environmental problems are to be tackled; sustainable options, for example, can offer greater value for money over their lifetime.
Social considerations also have benefits through improved wellbeing, reduced crime and community cohesion. The potential of the built environment to increase the productivity of employees has obvious economic benefits.
Together, these environmental, economic and social considerations are often referred to as ‘the three pillars of sustainability’ or ‘the triple bottom line’. The diagram below shows how they are linked . It demonstrates that development cannot be truly sustainable without consideration of them all.
Sustainable construction enables businesses to benefit in three ways: keeping abreast of legislation, reducing costs and enhancing reputation.
There is legislation specific to sustainable construction that covers issues from environment, health and safety and labour practices. Non- compliance can result in prosecutions and delays to your project.
For more information visit the Environment Agency and Health & Safety Executive websites below.
Energy prices, material costs and taxes on waste disposal are all rising. Reducing waste, materials and energy consumption, controlling pollution and prevention of incidents can all save you money.
Demonstrating your sustainability credentials can help you win new business, in particular from main contractors, whose procurement requires evidence of sustainability performance, customers who actively seek suppliers in their local area. The Local Government Association can provide information.
Managing your business impacts on the environment, your workforce and the local community is of interest to your customers, staff and local authorities. Doing well in these areas can benefit your reputation, leading to more business and attracting and keeping talented staff.
The construction industry produces more than 100 million tonnes of construction waste each year (24% of total waste in the UK), of which up to 13% is materials delivered to site and unused. Although around half of this waste is reused or recycled, the amount that is simply disposed of comes straight off your bottom line.
Why should this be important to me?
the cost of managing waste is significant and isn’t just the skip hire charge (up to £185 for an 8 yard skip in some areas) – it’s also the cost of the materials, transportation, labour and disposal. Better waste management makes you more competitive.
companies that have considered waste have used this as a springboard to engage their staff to drive efficiency through the business which has given them a competitive advantage in the market.
more and more clients are considering sustainability performance in their procurement processes. Better waste management will help you win more work.
What should I do about it?
Firstly, understand the waste you produce and measure it. The next step is to follow the waste hierarchy – it’s always better to reduce waste than having to find ways of dealing with it on the construction floor.
Where can I get help?
There are a number of re-use organisations operating which help re- distribute surplus construction materials for re-use by charities and voluntary organisations such as Recipro (http://www.recipro-uk.com/).
What have others done?
Astins, an SME contractor and Constructing Excellence member, calculated that waste plasterboard accounted for 5% of its turnover. It immediately looked at ways to design out waste and reuse offcuts. Having aligned itself with tier one contractor processes it is now looking at reducing its waste by 20%.
The construction industry is responsible for the intensive use of energy both directly, in the design, construction and refurbishment of buildings and infrastructure, and indirectly, in their operational phase.
Your company should manage your operations on site in an environmentally conscious way by recording and minimising energy use. This includes monitoring energy use in:
Designing and constructing buildings which are more energy efficient will appeal to clients as running costs will be lower. Being proactive in delivering this can improve your reputation and help to win work.
www.bre.co.uk/greenguide www.breeam.org www.energysavingtrust.org.uk www.strategicforum.org.uk/Sustain.shtml www.supplychainschool.co.uk
Responsible sourcing of materials is key to your business as it potentially holds the largest areas of construction cost savings and the maximum value to your client.
This can be achieved by collaborating with architects, main/sub contractors, product manufacturers and suppliers to identify any innovative or value engineered solutions available to best meet the client’s requirements (such as water saving devices or pre-cut material lengths)
Tangible benefits can be measured by a visible reduction in material costs as well as a reduction in waste volumes and disposal costs. It would also be worth considering the other factors, such as:
For further information on how to achieve this speak with your design and product contacts or visit www.constructingexcellence.org.uk/ sustainability
Management of sustainability
Applying a sustainable approach to all your operations means applying sustainable thinking to long-established principles of good management.
For many years, good businesses large or small have followed the process of Plan—Do—Check—Act
With thanks to the following member companies of the Constructing Excellence Sustainability Task Group for their contribution to this document:
Constructing Excellence, Carthusian Court,
T 0845 605 5556