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Construction industry struggles to ‘buy green’

‘Buying green’ is a key part of the construction industry’s drive towards greater sustainability.

Only a quarter of UK construction firms use sustainability criteria to select their suppliers.
Only a quarter of UK construction firms use sustainability criteria to select their suppliers.

But a survey in the latest issue of the ICE Management Procurement and Law journal finds UK firms struggling to put sustainable procurement into practice.

Joint research by Wolverhampton, Central Lancashire and South Bank universities reveals only 45% of UK construction businesses have a written sustainable procurement policy – and only a quarter use environmental and social criteria when selecting suppliers.

‘Triple bottom line’

Reasons to buy green were cited as cutting operating costs, protecting or enhancing reputation, responding to stakeholder pressure, complying with government regulation or simply because the top brass said so.

Lead author Suresh Renukappa of Wolverhampton University says many UK construction firms are now focusing on a ‘triple bottom line approach, that simultaneously accounts for economic, ecological and social performance.’

But he adds they are not finding it easy. ‘How to manage the paradox of improving social, environmental and financial goals simultaneously is one of a company’s biggest challenges.’

‘Urgent need’

He concludes, ‘There is an urgent need to explore the drivers and impediments associated with the successful integration of sustainability procurement initiatives into existing construction business models.’

He also calls for greater cross-sector collaboration to capture and share best and worst practices relating to sustainable procurement strategies.

For more information please contact the ICE Proceedings editor Simon Fullalove at editor@ice.org.uk or call +44 (0)20 8744 2028.