7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Integrate Sustainability Into Their Procurement Practices

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Construction is generally a dirty business for the environment. Construction and operation combined account for almost 40% of all carbon emissions in the world, making it the most polluting sector, according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Mitigating these emissions is an opportunity to have a huge impact.

The majority of construction-related CO2 emissions – around 11% of the global total – are associated with the manufacturing of building materials, the transport of materials to construction sites and the construction process itself, according to one. UN Environment World Status Report. A key area where entrepreneurs can build more sustainability into a project is the procurement process.

In addition, customers increasingly demand projects that withstand extreme weather conditions, produce minimal waste and are Socially responsible.

To build more forward-looking projects, builders should start with the procurement stage – the earlier in the process the better, said Nancy Kralik, president of the sustainability group with Fluor, during from a session at the 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers conference earlier this month. .

Here are seven tips for building greener from the start:

  1. Get customer buy-in: Contractors need to bring sustainability issues to their client and involve them, ”Kralik said. Communicate with the client early on to outline the benefits and opportunities of making projects sustainable from the start, and let them know upfront of any additional costs. Builders can use the language of procurement in contracts and purchase orders to demand additional durability conditions.
  2. Connect with the public: Communicate with project neighbors and really listen to them in order to build trust and a collaborative relationship – and avoid negative reactions and frustration down the road. Even non-experts can have great suggestions, Kralik said, and people living in the area can have invaluable knowledge about their surroundings. Their comments and observations can be used when developing a sustainability plan.

    An uplifting tale is I-81 in Syracuse, which passed through a historically black neighborhood, displaced residents, contributed to high rates of asthma, and became a symbol of segregation. A new project takes the inhabitants into account and aims to sew up the community.

    The I-81 overpass in Syracuse runs through a historically black neighborhood.

  3. Take a look at your supply chain and purchasing culture: Evaluate the cost of the supply chain in your organization, both in dollars and in hidden impact. Here are some questions to ask: How do you buy and from whom do you buy? What part of your turnover is devoted to paying suppliers, and what is their societal and environmental impact? Are there areas for improvement? Which will be the most impactful?
  4. Prioritize the protection and conservation of water: Contractors must first identify the sources of water pollution on the job site and mitigate those areas. They can also obtain water in a sustainable way, for example by capturing and reusing rainwater, and should conserve it as much as possible. The Santa Monica Urban Stormwater Recycling Facility is an example of a successful water recycling plant that now serves a variety of customers looking for a sustainable source.
  5. Energy efficiency from start to finish: The daily energy consumption of buildings represents 28% of all emissions worldwide. Fortunately, energy efficiency can be implemented in the design, construction and operation phases of a project. The Ministry of Energy has a guide to buying energy efficient products which includes energy efficiency ratings and suggested language for contracts.
  6. Reduce, reuse or recycle materials: Create an inventory with a plan for all materials in the project and specify low or zero carbon options where possible. Set goals to reduce, reuse, and recycle these components, and measure them against those goals as the project progresses to make sure everything is on track. Materials directed to landfills should also be documented. Do you have additional equipment that you do not need? Try to donate them to local businesses to foster goodwill.
  7. Create a sustainability plan: Contractors, service providers and suppliers should develop a plan of sustainability practices before the excavators hit the ground. This includes taking into account elements such as reduction of air emissions from heavy equipment, dust and noise management, topsoil reuse, reduction of dredging in water bodies and more, as well as the development of a sustainable procurement plan. Kralik recommended collecting baseline data first to create a baseline and considering projections of future climate stressors such as floods and fires.

    The LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal Replacement is an example of a carefully planned building designed to withstand extreme weather conditions of all kinds.

LaGuardia Airport’s new central terminal is built with a spirit of resilience.

Image by EEJCC is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

While building environmentally friendly can mean more work and upfront costs, the extra care pays off in the long run, Kralik said. Measures such as increased community engagement and the wise use of natural resources help to preserve the health of the environment, make neighbors happier and strengthen the reputation of a builder. Entrepreneurs who are already building sustainably and for resilience will have a leg up on their competition in the years to come.

“Some of the benefits of sustainable purchasing may not be immediately obvious, but they should become more so in the long run,” Kralik said.


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