Analyst insight: The production of concrete’s main ingredient, cement, is responsible for 5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Many efforts are underway to make concrete more sustainable, and data sharing processes in the construction supply chain aim to decrease harm on the environment.
Green building codes and certification programs, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), aim to reduce construction’s carbon footprint. Although operational carbon is a big deal, initial embodied carbon (EC) is a problem that needs attention as well. Initial embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions from the quarry to the cement mill and the ready mix plant — as well as transportation to the jobsite.
In order to reduce carbon emissions in a significant and meaningful way, companies must look beyond their own operations and engage their trading partners in the effort.
Carbon-aware specification and procurement policies supported by Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) can make an impact. EPDs are transparent, objective reports that show what a product is made of and how it impacts the environment across its entire life cycle.
To achieve decarbonization, broad industry collaboration must occur to set out the vision, goals and actions needed to drive change. Supply chains need connected technologies and an active community of people. Each stakeholder must have the desire to work symbiotically and share data — allowing for greater visibility across materials and trust among partners.
Of course, the data has to be reliable. When material sources and production techniques are verifiable, inspectors can confirm any sustainability claims being made. These insights are extremely useful in the complex construction supply chain because nearly all products require the collaboration of multiple businesses to complete the development of raw materials into final goods.
Supplier collaboration platforms can collect data from the many systems deployed throughout the supply chain and provide insights on the materials to other permissioned stakeholders, adding a broader view of the carbon efficiency from raw materials through final placement at the jobsite.
Track-and-trace technology can cut carbon usage, too. Dispatch and telematics solutions shorten drive times with optimized routes, and other solutions map truck locations in real time so that managers will know when a shipment arrives at the jobsite. The yard can be cleared prior to delivery so that trucks don’t sit and idle, releasing CO2 into the environment, while they wait for unloading.
The construction industry is positioned to impact the environment in a positive way by following sustainable practices. Supplier collaboration platforms are providing actionable information in real time, and other applications automatically send data to all stakeholders.
The ability to track and trace materials from quarry to jobsite has been unprecedented until now, and businesses are realizing the effects that these systems can have in reducing initial embodied carbon.
Steve Cox is vice president of business development at Command Alkon.