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Smart Procurement steps to deliver Net Zero


The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee recently released its report on Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction (11th May 2022). This report examines how to improve sustainability of the built environment in the UK. Five broad themes are cited however, we will focus and address the first 3 in this blog, and our emphasis will be suggested recommendations and tips that specifically centre on construction procurement.

The challenge


The UK built environment is responsible for approximately 25% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has a legally binding target to reach net zero by 2050, and at COP26 the Government committed to achieving 68% reductions in carbon emissions by 2030.


That only leaves us 8 years...


There is little Government guidance as to how these targets are to be met by the built environment industry.


We found these infographics a great resource and summary of the key issues we face globally in the fight against climate change.


1. Accounting methods for embodied and whole life carbon


If the UK continues to drag its feet on embodied carbon, it will not meet net zero or its carbon budgets. The embodied carbon cost of the construction is not required by current policy to be assessed or controlled, other than on a voluntary basis. As a result, no progress has been made in reducing these emissions within the built environment.


We can't wait, here are our handy tips of what you can do today. This is already working for others...why not give it a try?!


There is great evidence that the industry is rallying and has practical solutions that are ready to be adopted, so this doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive.

  • Join ZERO Construct (discord.com). We are building a playbook that will tackle this head on!

  • Thank you Stacy Smedley for sharing this embodied carbon action plan as as free resource which provides free access to a game changing approach for projects to build an embodied carbon action plan. Our recommendation - Maybe the CLC or IPA could trial this for projects to follow?

  • Smart Pro are building tools to harness ESG data and use embodied carbon data from EPD certificates alongside cost data to inform selection of bidders. We will use API technology to connect to the EC3 tool to better understand the embodied carbon (EPD) of the product / service to be procured.

  • Ask us about our Smart Pro Key Trade Tool to heat map your supply market risk and then overlay this with the product carbon and cost factors.

  • Engage suppliers early to ensure they understand how the EPD process will influence the outcome of the tender process along with other ECI benefits.

2. The use of low-carbon building products


There is availability of low-carbon building products to meet current demand, however there are insufficient incentives to develop and use these materials. By way of example, there are many obstacles that prevent the uptake of low carbon products in construction. This includes issues regarding fire risk and insurance, price volatility, securing sustainable and local supply chains, and addressing skills gaps in the use of timber.


We can't wait, here are our handy tips of what you can do today. This is already working for others...why not give it a try?!

  • Procurement teams have to incentivise and support development of these materials on construction projects. At Smart Pro as we grow, we are building a library of links to connect buyers with emerging new market entrants. This digital ledger will at as a catalyst to host and connect buyers and suppliers. Eventually our digital library of vetted / assured suppliers will become recommendations to projects who don’t know where to start when engaging the market…

  • If you can't wait for us, then examples in this space include the 2050 Materials platform or for MMC suppliers why not try Home - Suppliers | MMC Market. Both are a fantastic resource for sustainable products or suppliers who are leading the way with MMC solutions that are ready to be adopted.

  • Smart Pro idea - Perhaps the government could consider introducing a lower VAT rate or carbon credit scheme for low carbon alternative materials. This could be introduced for a limited period of time to promote adoption?


3. Government procurement of buildings


The Government’s 2020 Construction Playbook expects whole-life carbon assessments to be undertaken for all public works projects and programmes.


In June 2021, the Government published a National Procurement Policy Statement. The statement included a clause stating that contracting authorities should consider social value outcomes related to tackling climate change and reducing waste, alongside any additional local priorities when undertaking public procurement.


In the 2022 Queen’s Speech, the Government announced that it planned to introduce its Procurement Bill during the 2022–23 Session, to simplify public sector procurement and to provide new opportunities for small businesses.


The Government intends that the bill will:

(1) Give public sector buyers more flexibility to design the buying process to meet their specific procurement needs;


(2) Enshrine in law the objectives of public procurement including maximising public benefit, and


(3) Require buyers to have regard to the Government’s strategic priorities for public procurement as set out in the National Procurement Policy Statement.


The Government has committed to using public procurement to drive demand for low-carbon industrial products and expects whole-life carbon assessments to be undertaken in respect of all public works projects.


Guidance that contracting authorities should consider environmental impacts when undertaking public procurement is little more than advisory.


Public procurement policy which mandates the completion of whole-life carbon assessments could kick-start the market for low-carbon construction.


In time, a low carbon standard for public works projects would help to remove the data barriers to establishing this market.


The introduction of a Procurement Bill in the 2022–23 Session provides an opportunity for the Government to legislate for whole-life carbon assessments to be included in assessment of competing tenders for publicly financed building projects. This would strengthen the guidance in The Construction Playbook.


We can't wait, here are our handy tips of what you can do today. This is already working for others...why not give it a try?!

  • ISO20400 We advocate starting by assessing your project or company against the fantastic ISO20400 Sustainable Procurement assessment.

  • Strategic leadership Construction Procurement teams must urgently embrace your pivotal role to understand what embodied carbon is and escalate carbon reduction as an success factor in your award decisions.

  • Elevate carbon reduction in award decisions Cost, time and quality will always feature as key linear success factors in award decisions. But elevating carbon reduction through smarter procurement choices, is simple and easy. Not sure how? Ask us and we can help. We can share examples of the how to simply include or adjust your balanced score card to include carbon questions or EPD certs to measure the embodied carbon content. If we measure it, we will reduce it....that's just our purpose, no?

  • Stakeholder management ‘warm up’ your ultimate decision makers....this is coming and no, it's not going away! Today's procurement teams must act as advocates for change if they aren't the decision maker and play their pivotal role to persuade and negotiate with internal stakeholders....so why not try to use your influence to persuade others by gathering case studies/examples of what others are doing in this space. If you are struggling for ideas, there's heaps of experts at ZERO Construct (discord.com)

  • New Engineering Contract v4 - Secondary Option X29 The introduction of new secondary option X29 under NEC 4 contracts, would give parties a structure ​“to agree a fair and transparent risk profile for addressing the climate change outcomes of particular works” and to help make consideration of climate change factors. Smart Pro have simple and easy to adopt digital templates like our Smart Pro Key trades tool that allow your project to agree appropriate climate change requirements and associated incentivised performance baselines.

We can’t wait for policy and there are practical ways to act to save the planet today.


We don't have all the answers, but we believe in the power of finding solutions in our diverse ecosystem of partnerships and delivering tomorrow's procurement today.



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