Those in the construction sector know that it is increasingly being looked at to 'lead the way' in offering and delivering the green agenda. From architects to decorators, energy advisers, solar installers, builders and turf suppliers - each can make a difference in environmental performance. Increasingly too, each is also being expected to show how they are considering environmental impacts in their own business operations as well as in the products they deliver.
So what can businesses in this sector do - not only to meet these changing demands but also to take advantage of them? First is the importance of keeping up to date with the commercial opportunities and regulatory environmental requirements. For civil engineers this could mean being aware of CEEQUAL and its requirements.
These are often being built into contractual terms putting specific obligations on architects, designers and builders in areas such as materials choice, waste management and transport for example.
More broadly there is the need to keep up to date with the environmental regulation framework and general good practices. Having done all that there it's surprising how many companies don't really shout about their environmental credentials to enable their customers and potential customers to tell the difference between those companies that are really doing something from the ‘greenwash' ones.
There are numerous environmental accreditation options out there, eg. ISO14001 or BS8555 or EMAS with an emphasis on developing and maintaining an effective environmental management system.
For those wishing to concentrate more on how they work in practice rather than on underlying procedures and policies, there is the Green Achiever Scheme. This scheme has been specifically designed to support businesses in gaining recognition for their current good practices while also driving forward on-going improvements.
The Green Achiever scheme works with businesses through a series of ascending accreditation levels. Individual companies decide what is appropriate for them at any specific point in time and this may be influenced by supply chain demands, internal operational changes being made or regulatory obligations. Importantly at all levels (Registration, Self-assessment, Silver and Gold) members receive regular information about environmental good practices and regulation updates through fortnightly newsletters, support in ensuring they understand and are compliant with legal obligations and have access to the appropriate level logo for ensuring stakeholders are aware of their environmental achievements. At the higher levels members also receive support in developing environmental policies for use in tenders and in how to make improvements that can reduce operating costs also.
At any level, businesses will feature in the online public business directory enabling potential customers to see which businesses are really green.
For many smaller companies having a full environmental management system is not relevant for how they work in practice on a day-to-day basis but this does not stop them from operating in an environmentally aware way. The design of the Green Achiever Awards enables these businesses to gain the due recognition for their achievements.
For others with an EMS in place, having an opportunity to review both the systems and the practical day-to-day operations actually works well in parallel and some have used the Green Achiever Silver/Gold audit process as an initial launch for working towards ISO14001.
Whatever accreditation scheme or support process businesses choose the important factors remain the same – achieving competitive advantage and operating in a way that Meets their legal obligations; Reduces their impact on the environment in terms of the resources they use, the energy and water consumed or the amount of waste produced; Prevents pollution; and overall keeps their environmental impacts as low as is possible.
In the busy construction sector differentiating factors are especially important for marketing. Having credibility behind 'green' claims makes a difference where there are contracts to be won and a demonstration of an environmental policy may give businesses that winning edge. Customers, be they individual householders or large-scale commercial clients, are becoming increasingly discerning where environmental issues are concerned. Those businesses that are addressing their own operational impacts are the ones that are often being seen as offering an added value in their products. Research conducted by Lloyds TSB Commercial found that 91% of small businesses had taken steps to be more environmentally sustainable and 1/3 had seen growth on the back of these initiatives. Clearly, commercial and environmental progress is increasingly being recognised as being on the same page.
The high profile construction sector is right up there when it comes to the potential to 'Make a Difference'. If you're doing something – get the recognition for it by being accredited.
If you're not doing something but want to know where to start then get advice – the Green Achiever Scheme can help or support in either scenario.