The construction industry is on a mission-critical journey toward net zero, marking a significant shift from estimating to accurately reporting carbon emissions. This transformation isn't just about refining methodologies. It's about fundamentally altering how the industry addresses its environmental impact, moving from approximations to targeted actions.

We now understand that to combat climate change effectively, strategies must be rooted in high-quality data. It’s this knowledge that’s driving the call for more precise carbon reporting. Traditional carbon estimation methods are useful but they fall short of providing detailed, "as built" reliable data necessary for informed decision-making and accurate progress tracking. Fortunately, advancements in technology are facilitating a significant leap forward, offering the potential for real-time, precise carbon data.

The need for accurate carbon reporting

The sector faces diverse challenges in carbon reporting, including the lack of comprehensive data, inconsistencies in measurement, and a pressing need for data trustworthiness in decision-making.

Accurate carbon data is vital, allowing organisations to pinpoint the most effective emission reduction strategies and monitor their progress toward environmental goals. And despite the obstacles to achieving this, the industry is slowly recognising the need for, and collaborating, to enhance carbon reporting quality.

The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially as the impacts of climate change become increasingly evident. The built environment sector is at a critical juncture, from recognising the need for sustainability to actively implementing measures for tangible improvement.

By confronting these reporting challenges head-on and prioritising carbon data accuracy, the industry is making substantial strides toward fulfilling its environmental responsibilities and setting a global sustainability benchmark.

The importance of leveraging data

Reliable data is the foundation for all sustainability efforts. Without it, the industry's progress is questionable, and the credibility of reported outcomes may diminish.

"Calculating carbon itself isn't a problem,” states Adam O’Rourke, Enabling Technology Consultant at Causeway. “It's A x B equals C, but that isn't the issue. The issue revolves around data accuracy."

Tech companies have responded with innovative solutions to help the built environment sector embed carbon reporting in their daily operations. For instance, suppliers attaching carbon data to invoices allows companies to track their embodied carbon emissions more accurately, providing a transparent record of the industry's carbon output.

This transformation extends beyond mere technical adjustments. It signifies a broader commitment to openness, responsibility, and proactive engagement. With access to trustworthy data, companies can establish and achieve realistic goals, transparently communicate their progress, and encourage ongoing improvement by leveraging insights to reduce carbon emissions.

The role of suppliers in achieving net zero

Suppliers of carbon intensive products such as steel, concrete and asphalt play a key role in the sector's sustainability journey. They have the unique ability to significantly influence the sector's carbon footprint through their products and practices.

Suppliers like Aggregate Industries have invested heavily in developing low carbon products and creating processes that enable the transparent reporting of carbon data across the range of their product portfolio. They have developed an externally verified carbon reporting system that offers customers a bespoke carbon report. This approach ensures that they can provide detailed carbon information at a granular level for every material used within their product portfolio.

"We've created an automated carbon reporting tool that links with our finance reporting software," says Paul Wagstaff, Head of Product Management at Aggregate Industries. “This allows us to clarify and utilise carbon data effectively.”

In addition to optimising their internal processes for better carbon management and customer reporting, they have also established new standards for sustainable product development.

The automation and integration of carbon reporting tools within suppliers' operations enhance the transparency of information exchange between contractors and clients. This openness is vital for building trust and fostering partnerships focused on shared sustainability goals. These efforts extend beyond compliance, driving innovation and encouraging the creation of low-carbon products across the supply chain.

As the sector aims to meet its ambitious net-zero targets, suppliers' roles will become increasingly important. Aggregate Industries' initiatives to provide accurate carbon data and develop sustainable products significantly contribute to reducing the industry's overall carbon footprint.

How collaboration will decide our success or failure

Achieving net zero in construction is a monumental ambition. It's not something any one company can do alone. It's a collective mission that involves the entire industry.

By transitioning from spend-based to quantity-based reporting, the industry can more accurately reflect the positive impact of procurement and design choices. This data-driven approach not only motivates us to choose lower-carbon options but also encourages the entire value chain to innovate.

This collaborative mindset does more than share information. It cultivates a culture of creativity and mutual support crucial for tackling sustainability challenges in the built environment. By joining forces, we can identify and focus our efforts on the most significant carbon emission sources.

Collaboration on this issue isn't just beneficial - it's essential. It speeds up the solution-finding process and creates a supportive community where successes are shared.

“By bringing our heads together and addressing our shared challenges, we can find solutions more efficiently,” says Jenna Taki, Carbon Manager for Kier Group.

Ongoing teamwork, smart data use and collective action will open up the industry’s path to net zero. The aim is to make operations more transparent and encourage greener choices across the board. This journey isn't just about meeting targets. It's about transforming construction practices for the betterment of the built environment sector and the people it serves.

Our scope 3 initiative

At Causeway, we've spearheaded a transformative carbon initiative designed to redefine the construction industry's approach to carbon footprint management, particularly concerning embodied carbon emissions.

This groundbreaking initiative is the result of a collaborative venture involving industry leaders such as Aggregate Industries, Balfour Beatty, Galliford Try, Kier Group Ltd, Morgan Sindall, and Vinci Construction UK.

Supported by a strategic partnership with the Engineering Department at the University of Bath, our collective aim is to provide precise, real-time carbon data across the construction supply chain, empowering companies to make informed, sustainable decisions.

By integrating detailed carbon data with financial and operational workflows, our initiative not only facilitates accurate carbon reporting but also enables actionable insights for reducing emissions. Find out more about the Scope 3 Initiative.

To watch our latest webinar on the topic click here.

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