Show Us The Proof!

Posted on by Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson, marketing manager Saint Gobain PAM, explores why suppliers need to offer proof of their sustainable credentials.

Specifiers for construction and infrastructure projects are challenging the supply chain for sustainable solutions with evidence to demonstrate tangible results.

Suppliers need to show that they understand, measure and limit their impact on the environment as a result of their activities, processes and products over the whole life cycle of an installation.

There are very few who now doubt that climate change is altering our weather patterns. Flash flooding is almost becoming commonplace and the challenge is how to alleviate or prevent such problems.

When talking about sustainable solutions to, for example, deal with flash flooding, the supply chain must prove that it is offering the best answer possible to minimise its affect on the very problem that it is trying to solve.

Organisations as a whole can and should be audited through initiatives such as CEMARS (Carbon Emissions Management and Reduction Scheme). An independent audit looks at every aspect of a business covering its electrical, gas, water, waste, transport and far more.

This forms a benchmark from which it can then set targets to improve on a year-by-year basis. It’s a useful start for procurement in that it demonstrates the organisation’s attitude to sustainability, but does it really offer enough granular information for the specifier of a particular project?

Also what about organisations who offshore their manufacturing? Does that data take that into account or does it simply audit the UK operations? The UK has after all been accused of simply offshoring its carbon emissions to the cheapest supplier for years. While exporting this manufacturing might arguably be a cost effective alternative, it surely can’t be more sustainable than more local manufacturing?

So digging deeper you should be looking for the carbon emissions of an individual product over its useful lifetime. Again there are such measures in place through type 3 Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

It’s a case of buyer beware at this point as you need to make sure that the EPD is type 3, which means that the methods used to collect and present the data are independently verified to ensure full compliance with the relevant standards EN15804 and EN ISO 14025.

And such audits are thorough. They cover the entire product’s life from raw material extraction and processing, through manufacturing, transport, installation, maintenance and finally end of life recycling.

The result is a series of measurements that the specifier can use to assess a product’s sustainable credentials such as its carbon footprint, its ecological footprint and its water footprint.

And the advantages of such an approach reach right down the supply chain because it provides data that the manufacturer can take action on to further improve their results.

It will help ensure that the installation contractors are properly trained to improve the sustainability of the solution since it reduces the need for maintenance visits and extends its useful lifetime. This in turn reduces the monetary cost of the asset over its life, which in today’s era of reduced budgets has to be a good thing.

So the next time a supplier assures you that their solution is sustainable, ask for the proof. If they don’t measure and benchmark their products how can you make any comparisons between different options and whether they can help improve your sustainability performance?


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