Following a 136% rise in online interest in 'sustainable business practices' in the last six months, asset disposal specialist BPI worked with a range of experts to illustrate actionable strategies for construction businesses to champion sustainability in 2024.

With the UK committed to reaching net zero by 2050, the construction industry plays a pivotal role in achieving carbon-reduction goals. The industry has a substantial environmental impact, but embracing sustainability isn't easy with over 98,000 construction companies in the UK.

The sector faces various challenges, including high costs, resistance to change, complex supply chains, skills gaps, time constraints, public perception, and waste management difficulties.

However, the positive environmental and social impact outweighs these challenges, and companies can reap long-term benefits by embracing sustainable practices. These include future cost savings through efficiency, enhanced market competitiveness, regulatory compliance, resilience to market changes, positive community relationships, and a reduced environmental footprint resulting in long-term viability.

Build carbon-neutral practices

Embodied carbon from the construction and refurbishment of buildings currently makes up 20% of UK-built environmental emissions. While many leading construction firms measure and optimise the embodied carbon footprint of their projects, this needs to become mainstream practice.

Construction companies can pioneer carbon-neutral building practices by incorporating sustainable materials, energy-efficient designs, and following the Net Zero Carbon Building Standard, which will be published this year.

“With construction, it’s all about having the right ingredients and what you put into the mix, so looking at what others are doing and trying to source from those who are already sustainably minded is an excellent start,” said Raffi Schieir, Founder of Prevented Ocean Plastic.

Adopt circular economy practices

Circular economy practices are a set of principles aimed at minimising waste and maximising the efficiency and sustainability of resources throughout their lifecycle. Embracing a circular economy approach, the construction industry can reduce waste by repurposing and recycling materials, equipment and machinery. 

Implementing circular principles ensures resources are utilised efficiently, contributing to a closed-loop system to achieve net-zero waste and emissions.

Henry Spencer, Operations Director at BPI, said: "By integrating asset disposal strategies centred on machinery and equipment resale and reuse, construction businesses contribute to environmental sustainability and strengthen brand reputation and long-term viability.

“By conducting regular asset audits, businesses can identify surplus equipment and machinery, assess refurbishment potential and emphasise sustainability in procurement. Partnering with a reputable selling platform ensures transparent and efficient disposal and contributes to the circular economy.”

Embrace advanced sustainable technologies

Construction firms can optimise project planning and reduce energy consumption by investing in innovative technologies, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and smart construction solutions that enhance project efficiency, reduce errors, and optimise resource use. Renewable energy technologies, like solar panels and wind turbines, are also popular and a fast and effective change to lower reliance on conventional power sources.

Ruari Cairns, Director of Risk Management and European Operations at Open Energy Market, said: “In short, a forward-thinking approach to energy sourcing and pricing involves businesses evaluating their energy mix, exploring innovative technologies and adopting sustainable practices. This is the way to mitigate the impact of energy costs – all while aligning operations with sustainability objectives. 

“Good energy procurement is an opportunity – not a burden. By investing in the right strategies and technologies, businesses can reduce costs and enhance sustainability – a duality that serves as a linchpin for long-term success, both from an economic and environmental standpoint.”

Implement sustainable chain practices

As sustainability becomes a critical factor in decision-making, businesses are looking to work with ‘green companies’ that implement sustainable supply chain practices to gain a competitive edge, attracting environmentally conscious customers and investors. 

With construction companies competing for tenders, having a sustainable chain could be the one thing that sets you apart from the rest.

“SMEs and small suppliers say they are increasingly being asked to demonstrate their carbon reduction plans when bidding for contracts," said Jonathan Jones, Founder and CEO of Green Ibex. "So, not having one might mean you’re potentially losing business. This is driven by demand from customers and big buyers, such as the public sector and retailers, who are under increasing scrutiny to have more sustainable value chains. Tightening regulations and consumers are often pointed as the key forces driving that – but it also makes so much business sense.

Focus on community-centric sustainable development

Construction businesses can foster a collaborative approach to sustainable development by engaging with local communities. Transparent communication and community education efforts contribute to net zero goals by ensuring projects align with local expectations and environmental aspirations.

It also ensures that construction projects consider and respect the unique needs and concerns of the communities they impact, provides a sense of shared responsibility for sustainable development and environmental responsibility.

Spencer concluded: “As an asset disposal expert, specialising in construction equipment and machinery, we witness the daily challenges of companies striving for sustainability.

"As the UK aims to hit net zero goals, construction firms can overcome sustainability hurdles by conducting thorough audits, investing in technology, building a culture of innovation, collaborating with suppliers for transparency, and embracing local communities. By integrating these core strategies, companies can align economic goals with environmental responsibility, unlocking long-term benefits and resilience."