Understanding CSR in Construction

Perhaps we need to clarify what we understand by CSR in Construction?

Whether we mean Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Sustainable Responsibility or even Carbon Social Responsibility is somewhat irrelevant and I am comfortable with all definitions. What is important of course is how we approach, manage and embed CSR within the organisation.

Probably one of the least effective CSR approaches would be one that is scattergun, uncoordinated and of a tick box nature to enable us just to tick the CSR box for bids, company literature and websites.

CSR starts with understanding the organisations impact, on social, sustainability, education, employment, on the planet, on communities and more. Once that impact is understood, measures can be planned and implemented to minimise or eliminate those impacts. CSR needs real  commitment to integrate responsible practices into daily organisational  operations to address impact.

CSR, as I recently quoted on twitter it is about striving for zero impact and a closed loop system that addresses resources used.

Sources of CSR inspiration I suggest delegates on my CSR events and workshops check out, as they  have significance within construction, include

Yvon Chouinard and the essential reading: Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman""  (http://amzn.to/otp3vT)  that includes a chapter on how Patagonia as client extends it’s CSR and  environmental values to construction projects.

Secondly the late Ray Anderson, (Interface Flooring) probably the most influential CSR and Sustainability thinker in the built environment. His Mount Sustainability and Zero Mission thinking has inspired many.   Check out Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: How Interface proved that you can build a successful business without destroying the planet""  (http://amzn.to/r00VAJ)

And  for current CSR thinking within the built environment and beyond, check out  the news feeds and articles from leading CSR thinkers on CSRWire.

A recent article written for CSRWire explored the link between CSR, carbon management and localism within construction and FM which fired an interesting debate on a possible new thinking for CSR – Carbon Social Resposnibility

I await to see who will be the first construction organisation in the UK to become members of what I view as the best commitment possible to CSR – the 1% for the Planet movement. That’s one percent of turnover going to offset the impact your organisation may have on the environment. Commitment yes, but perhaps just a fraction of the cost of really addressing construction impact.

(This post was written in connection with the linkedin CSR in Construction group)


Green Deal PAS 2030 – Necessary Control or Unnecessary Burden?

What may well become one of the most significant UK standards in refurbishment, eco-refits and green deal, possibly up there with ISO 9001 and CDM, PAS 2030, has been released in draft for consultation through the BSi. (PAS is a Publicly Available Standard)

PAS 2030 will become the installation standard for Green Deal and other green refurbishment type agreements. Installers would have to be accredited under PAS 2030 in order to operate under Green Deal schemes.

From PAS 2030 introduction: It is intended for use by any entity undertaking the installation of any products and/ or systems designed to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings but particularly where those products and systems are to be installed within the remit of the United Kingdom Green Deal Financing Mechanism.

This PAS includes requirements in respect of installation processes, process management and service provision and includes criteria relating to installation methods, equipment and tools, product and material suitability and the training, skills and competence of the people undertaking such installation.

DECC, sponsors of the standard are silent on the issue and status on their Green Deal website. You have to dig deeper into the minutes of the Green Deal Installer Accreditation & Qualification Forum to understand the importance of PAS 2030

DECC clarified that:

PAS 2030 sets the standard for Green Deal. Certification bodies apply the standard and are accredited by UKAS

Those certification bodies accredited then pass on details of their members to go onto the Installer Register (managed by the Oversight Body).

Only those on the register can operate under the GD

The consultation is open until the 24th october, contractors, subcontractors. installers and others looking to be involved in GreenDeal are urged to read the document and make comment during the consultation period

On reading the draft document, discussing with contractors and clients, my comments are:

  • Size of the standard is intiallay daunting – 175 pages
  • At least in the short term, until further awareness and training is completed, it could well exclude those SME’s not already ISO 9001 accredited or familiar with concepts such as Process Management, Process Control, Non Conformities and the like)
  • There appears to be a requirement for a comprehensive installation plan for each measure / property. (measures range from SV Panels to Loft Installation to Window Replacement)
  • With less than 12 months to launch of Green Deal very little time for SME’s to put a PAS 2030 system in place or included in their other systems and to be accredited. I also assume accreditation would include audit of projects as well as the system, introducing a chicken and egg scenario
  • Additional cost of preparation / accreditation could be a barrier if not viewed as an improvement investment.

There are omissions in the standard which suggests it has been written with old school thinking rather than sustainability advocate thinking. Even the title, 2030, has huge relevance in the world of climate change, a connection not recognised or acknowledged, despite the stated prime political purpose of Green Deal is to contribute to the UK CO2 reduction, with 2030 being a key milestone.

The standard is also silent or light on sustainable construction themes such as sustainable procurement, carbon management, waste or appropraite sourcing. No reference is made to other government sustainable construction standards or strategies

PAS 2030 could or should present an opportunity to further embed sustainability within the industry. An opportunity missed if the draft is not radically amended.

Chief Executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills, Mark Farrar said:

“With the Green Deal on the horizon, it is important that firms who want to stay one step ahead of the game take part in this consultation. All installers will have to be certified to PAS 2030 standards and without the required accreditations, they may lose out on business come next October. But, the accreditation has to be realistic and that’s why it’s so important to make sure all firms are consulted properly.

Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders said:

“The PAS 2030, setting the standards for Green Deal installers, is an important consultation for everyone in the building industry. It will impact on the future delivery of retrofit work so it is crucial that businesses take the time to look at it and offer comments before it is set in stone.

We plan to trial the PAS 2030 approach with contractor (Emanuel Whittaker) and client (Salix Homes) working together on a eco refurb project in Manchester – more updates soon.

Half of Multinationals to Choose Suppliers Based on CO2 Emissions

Why monitor construction carbons:  Shortly after writing a comment to a linkedin group on the importance of measuring and understanding construction carbons, through tools such as ConstructCO2, indications of increased focus on carbon performance popped up in a tweet (via Julie Urlaub @TaigaCompany ) regarding an Environmental Leader post that referenced Carbon Trust Report: Half of Multinationals to Choose Suppliers Based on CO2 Emissions 

According to the study, a full half of multinational companies plan to select suppliers based on carbon performance, and that 29% of suppliers are likely to lose their places on green supply chains if they do not have adequate performance records on carbon.

In the U.K., 56% of multinationals said that in the future they expect to drop suppliers based upon low carbon performance, with 74% of the U.K. respondents quoting shareholder pressure as a key driver for them in tackling carbon emissions.

And, although the report has a focus on multinationals, it is not irrelevant to the built environment

Next month Marshalls Plc, a supplier of hard landscaping, will be hosting a United Nations Global Compact Supplier event to educate first-tier suppliers on its approach to environmental issues.

As I posted to the Think Zero group on Linkedin, I still have to hear a good reason why we should not be measuring construction carbons.  Are you tracking your carbon performance – do you have the evidence?

Read more: Carbon performance offers major risk or reward