Across all industries there is now an increasing pressure for organisations to minimise adverse social and environmental impacts, on both a localised and global scale. Education to the public through social media and other media platforms has increased the awareness of environmental issues previously never thought of. One example of this is the “Blue Planet effect” in 2017. Public awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans came to the forefront of both public and governing bodies. This, in the industrial sector, has prompted research into we can reduce a products overall environmental implications, throughout all aspects of the products life cycle. Utilisation of readily available local resources, renewable energy, innovative research and sustainable sourcing has helped countries and organisations reduce their environmental impacts.
With the UK being an island nation, there is a lack of readily available raw materials locally. These raw materials are required across the country to allow everyday working activities to occur, activities ranging from farming to aerospace engineering. This inherent problem has been resolved by sourcing the materials needed in manufacturing processes from abroad. The importing of materials has inherent environmental implications because of transportation (I.e. timber from Brazil) to the manufacturer (I.e. Cabinet maker in UK). The transportation of these materials therefore requires the use of fossil fuels (mainly diesel), which produce greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter.
UK construction industry
Within the construction industry policy has been implemented to increase the incentive to build sustainably. The UK governments “Strategy for Sustainable Construction” (HM Government, 2008) started to encourage the idea of responsible sourcing of materials. This idea of responsible sourcing has since been enriched by being implemented into British standards in 2010. The production of the first framework directive based around responsible sourcing was introduced in 2009 by the Building Research Establishment, the BES 6001.
Responsible resourcing is a voluntary commitment by companies that require resources (I.e. raw material or labour) to account for the social, socio-economic and environmental considerations when managing their supply chains. This is implemented through internal policy and management systems. Taking this approach to resourcing materials allows for a reduction of unfavourable behaviours and practices to occur. For example, if resources that are derived using unfavourable practices stop being supported economically, then production in this fashion will stop.
What is BES 6001?
The BES 6001 ‘Framework standard for the responsible sourcing of construction products’ shows a framework for organisational management systems that encompasses:
- Social requirements both within and outside of the organisation
- Environmental requirements
- Supply chain management
This certification shows that the product designed and used in the construction industry is reducing its environmental and societal impact. Each specific requirement of the certification is implemented through a review of the product that has applied to be certified. For each of the requirements there is a written criterion that needs to be met in order to achieve the threshold minimum standard and 4 levels of performance are then given.
These performance levels have set threshold scores from the framework standard at the following levels:
- Very Good
The framework also incorporates traceability into the whole supply chain used by the company. The utilisation of traceability allows for any material used in the manufacturing process to be traced back to its direct source. This could be from the raw material extraction or synthesis. This approach allows organisations to be able to identify ethical and environmental problems related with the materials. This also allows identification of illegal practices, due to these generally not being traceable.
BES 6001 not only applies internationally, but also on a local scale. For a company to qualify for the certification, policies need to be implemented into their management system which consult with local communities. This allows a company to understand the impact it is having on the local community. Identification of issues informs and encourages the company to take measures to prevent ongoing problems. If this is done effectively with local communities, a mutual level of respect and understanding will be built between the two parties.
The framework also provides a holistic and full life cycle approach to the management of products used within construction. This requires a life cycle analysis (LCA) tool to be used for the product the organisation wants to be certified. A LCA approach allows organisations to identify significant environmental issues related to the product from a ‘cradle to grave’ method. This methodology takes into account all the materials used in the product. Each material is analysed for environmental impact potentials (i.e. CO2
, acidification). These are calculated in the LCA by analysing:
- All material used in the product
- Any extraction processes (i.e. mining)
- Synthesis of chemicals
- Manufacturing of the product
- Resource depletion (Fossil fuel and Water)
Through this analysis, this allows businesses to see where they can improve and set suitable targets to be met within their policy.
Since 2002 in the insulation industry, Kingspan Insulation have pioneered efforts to reduce their environmental impact. This can be seen across a variety of standards. One such standard is the BES framework, which was adopted in 2009, making Kingspan Insulation one of the earliest adopters to this approach of sourcing materials. This shows that Kingspan Insulation are committed to the welfare of the global community. In 2015 the firm achieved a landmark goal, becoming the first insulation manufacture to achieve “Excellent” in BES 6001 with the Kooltherm, KoolDuct and Therma ranges produced in the Pembridge, Herefordshire and Selby, North Yorkshire plants.
BES 6001 pushes competitors to move to this onerous standard. This simulates a demand for the environmentally and socially preferable products within the construction industry. The BES 6001 further allows a company to continuously develop economically as well as practicing environmental and social offsetting behaviours. Through integration of energy targets, LCA, community involvement, supply chain management and other factors, this has built a modern and forward thinking structure to how businesses should operate to allow the continuous sustainable growth of the global community.
HM Government and Strategic Forum for Construction (2008) ‘Strategy for Sustainable Construction.’ Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, London. URL: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/250625/0447.pdf - Accessed 21/01/2020