Launch of CIRIA's Responsible Sourcing Handbook

Dave Knight is Sustainability Advisor for CARES, UK Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steels and the Founding Director of One Planet Limited. Here he
discusses the London launch event for CIRIA's Responsible Sourcing Handbook.

I was fortunate to join a panel of industry specialists and experts in responsible sourcing, presenting a construction material certification body - CARES case study on its approach to responsible sourcing, at the recent launch of the CIRIA Minimising risk through responsible sourcing handbook (C767) in London.

The event introduced the handbook to a broad range of construction industry stakeholders, including delegates from companies, certification bodies, industry bodies and NGO’s. There was some great engagement on the theme with questions like ‘How can I focus down on the things that really matter and get more procurement professionals involved?’ discussed in the lively plenary session. Attendees heard that increasing emphasis is being placed on due diligence throughout the construction materials value chain, legislative requirements are growing and that the need for engagement and collaboration has never been greater both to understand impacts and as the basis for improvement. We heard some great examples from within the industry, however there are some opportunities that are poorly understood and managed. 
The case study I presented was focused on the CARES Sustainable Constructional Steels (SCS) certification scheme, one of 31 methods of implementing and demonstrating responsible sourcing referenced in the new handbook. The certification aims to provide buyers of constructional steel materials confidence that a broad range of relevant responsible sourcing issues are being managed to improve performance. 

One way I illustrated this at the event was through the infographic below. It uses the concept of an ‘extended product’ with the centre circle representing the product and its key function – concrete reinforcement. The physical properties required of the product are shown in the next circle, but there is much more to the product than that. The expanding concentric circles represent in turn; the management system requirements of the certification, including holding an Environmental Product Declaration, the scope of material issues covered by the scheme criteria within these systems and finally the range of stakeholders that are involved in or are impacted by CARES SCS produced steel.

This illustration aligns to many aspects covered in the handbook, for example, a series of product sheets form the bulk of the handbook of which steel and reinforcing bar are two. This resource enables procurement teams and others to understand more about value chain impacts for any given construction material, where along the value chain these impacts are happening, expectations of the kind of management approaches that can be looked for and the types of questions procurement professionals should be asking when sourcing these materials.  

Another hot topic at the event explored how taking one approach only is not sufficient to make a real impact. Dr Eva Gkenakou from Multiplex Construction Europe, David Morrell from Marshalls PLC and Ian Nicholson from Responsible Solutions also spoke on how a variety of measures including; engagement, focused project work with suppliers, audit, transparent reporting and good governance can all support effective change. 

What is clear is that responsible sourcing, that reaches throughout supply networks, has got to rapidly scale to become a normal part of the procurement process. How well organisations collaborate and focus on what matters the most in these networks will be key determiners of future business success.

If you are interested in the debate and want to know more about the handbook, it is not too late, to sign up for the next launch event to be held at Loughborough University as detailed below.

Midlands Launch Event - 19 June 2017
Loughborough University, Epinal Way, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3TU

Find out more about CARES Sustainable Constructional Steels certification scheme or contact