Greening the supply chain

In partnership with the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS) we conducted our Greening the Supply Chain survey to better understand the barriers to net zero in our supply chain. Read about the approach we have taken during 2023 to address the key themes raised below.

Read our 'Greening the Supply Chain' report in full.

Greening the Supply Chain

In our survey only 48% of those who responded said that the development pipeline for low-carbon materials including concrete and steel is sufficient to meet net zero targets. 

In an aim to support and drive the development of low-carbon materials, we’ve partnered with Cement 2 Zero, a UK-based demonstrator project dedicated to trialling zero-emission cement on an industrial scale.  

During a two-year trial, we will work together with the Materials Processing Institute, the University of Cambridge, industry partners Atkins, Celsa, Day Aggregates and Tarmac to combine our expertise and to rigorously test each stage of the zero-emission cement production process. This ambitious endeavour to drive the decarbonisation of cement, has received substantial support including £6.5 million in government funding from UK Research & Innovation as part of the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge.  

Additionally, it aims to demonstrate that concrete can be recycled to create a slag forming addition that could, when cooled rapidly, replace Portland cement, further advancing sustainable practices within the industry. Traditional Portland clinker, a key component in cement production, is typically manufactured by subjecting limestone and other minerals to high-temperature kiln firing, a process responsible for over 50% of the cement sector's emissions. 

Cement 2 Zero will utilise recycled cement as the flux in the electric steel recycling process. The resulting by-product, once cooled and ground, yields Portland cement clinker, which is then blended to create the 'zero-emissions' cement known as Cambridge Electric Cement.  

After conducting successful concept-proving pilot melts, Cement 2 Zero is progressing to the industrial trial phase before being used on a live UK construction site, a significant step forward in our industry’s journey to net zero carbon emissions.  

59% of businesses that responded to the survey said they are significantly investing in new, low or zero carbon products, materials or services. However, many also highlighted that they could do more if they had access to funding.  

Reducing emissions from plant on sites is a key challenge faced by the entire construction and infrastructure industry. In 2023, we became the first construction company to secure funding from the Scottish Government’s Emerging Energies Technology Fund, to retrofit carbon intensive vehicles to run off both hydrogen and diesel, also known as dual fuel. 

We are also match-funding the scheme which will allow us to retrofit two gritters, one impact protection vehicle and one 5-tonne pick-up which operate on our Connect Roads M77/Glasgow Southern Orbital Operations and Maintenance project to run off dual fuel.    

The trial is expected to deliver a 40% reduction in carbon emissions from each of the four retrofitted vehicles, with the aim of providing a blueprint for the conversion of all Balfour Beatty owned fleet in the future. 

Data collection and reporting was another significant theme from the survey. Many of those who responded said they appreciated the importance of data to guide targeted change and ensure that accurate carbon footprints are established and maintained throughout a project. However, they also highlighted that they are asked for the same data in multiple different formats. 

To support automation and improve the quality of data for capturing Scope 3 emissions, the Scope 3 initiative was created in a collaborative venture between Causeway, Balfour Beatty Aggregate Industries, Galliford Try and Morgan Sindall. In a bid to further enhance collaboration across the industry, the initiative has also been extended to include Kier and VINCI.    

Causeway Scope 3 is a software solution designed to deliver a credible, verifiable, efficient and scalable way to measure materials Scope 3 emissions using invoice data automatically extracted from Causeway Tradex; a construction industry e-invoicing platform that processes millions of invoices from thousands of suppliers each year. Using Causeway Tradex, Scope 3 emissions can be associated with specific projects and specific transactions and emissions measured in real-time as a building or structure is constructed. This significantly improves data accuracy and management compared to the existing industry approach of using carbon proxy values based on materials costs or manual carbon accounting based on materials quantities and non-product specific GHG emissions factors.  

In the future scope for the initiative, our supply chain partners could be on-boarded to support carbon foot printing from both direct and indirect material purchases.  

While many of those who responded highlighted that their businesses are investing in developing the necessary skills themselves, 96% said that they are experiencing a shortfall in access to skilled people.  

In an aim to upskill, not only our people but our customers and supply chain partners, our sustainability team working in our highways business in the UK has been delivering Carbon Literacy training programmes. The sessions are instrumental in ensuring that everyone gains an understanding of carbon management and climate change and how it affects the construction industry, increasing our ability to collaboratively minimise our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.  ​   

As of December 2023, over 300 individuals have benefitted from the training, and we identified additional training requirements on how to minimise Scope 3 emissions - the carbon generated by our supply chain through the products and services we procure. ​   

We have also developed a Carbon Conscious Procurement training programme which provides:​   

  • An understanding of how and why our climate is changing
  • Understanding of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions ​  
  • Awareness of environmental product declarations and science based targets ​  
  • Understanding of our sustainable procurement process, including ISO 20400

75% of our highway’s procurement team in the UK has successfully completed the Carbon Conscious programme and it has also been rolled out to the supply chain partners of the M25 J10 and A63 schemes. Through delivery of the programme, a common understanding has been established among our procurement and supply chain partners on the challenges we face to reduce our carbon emissions, and the current processes in place to minimise our impact. 

The need to take sustainability and decarbonisation beyond the realms of being something businesses compete on, to a priority focus that businesses are encouraged to work collaboratively together, emerged as a prominent theme from the interviews and written survey responses. Participants emphasised the shift from individual competitiveness to collective action, highlighting climate change as a challenge ‘too significant’ for businesses to address independently. 

To help to facilitate collaboration and bring about collective change, in November 2023, we brought together key construction and infrastructure providers and some of our strategic plant suppliers to delve into the world of decarbonisation​.  

Participants explored the use of plant and equipment telematics to improve the management of KPIs such as, utilisation, fuel use and maintenance downtime; all things that can improve efficiency and reduce emissions.