Responsible sourcing

The construction industry is realising the need to minimise the impact that construction and the supply chain have on resources and the environment, both in the UK and all over the world. As such, responsible sourcing of products is a key aspect organisations are focusing on as well as raising the awareness of the manufacturers of these products.

CIRIA is working to identify the challenges related to responsible sourcing and to help the industry move this agenda forward.

In collaboration with the Action Programme for Responsible Sourcing (APRES), CIRIA delivered the 4th APRES Conference Responsible sourcing on the global stage, which took place at Loughborough University on 27 November 2014.

The conference included 13 speakers, who highlighted key developments in responsible sourcing for construction, as well as in other sectors. The speakers also examined relevant issues such as global supply chains, responsible purchasing, social responsibilities and ethics.

It emerged that “sustainable and ethical business models are good business models” and are vital to improve the image of construction and minimise the impact on society. Yet, there are still many limits and questions around the effective implementation of responsible sourcing.

The first challenge companies have to face is the definition: aspects of responsible sourcing are treated in many different ways and from many points of view by regulations and organisations.

Moreover, the global supply chain generates concerns in terms of complexity of products, traceability of components, transparency of and access to information, human rights and labour conditions. Companies are trying to deal with these concerns by assessing their own supply chain (as Jewson, the Highways Agency and Crossrail have done) and adhering to volunteer programmes such as the Ethical Trade Initiative, the Concrete Sustainability Council, the Ethical Supply Chains in Construction group or the Supply Chain Sustainability School.

Finally, it was highlighted that all these aspects pose risks to the reputation of the companies, whose public recognition could be affected by the wrong choices or events (eg Benetton following the Rana Plaza factory collapse).

CIRIA will address these emerging issues in a new project, Minimising risk through responsible sourcing. In partnership with APRES and Responsible Solutions, we will develop a practical guidance that will help decision-makers procure and supply products in a more responsible way, taking into account challenges, reputational risks and statutory and contractual obligations.

The guidance will provide advice on the important questions that need to be asked during the tender process. It will focus on key construction materials, including timber, steel, plastic, masonry, aggregates, bulk materials and M&E components.

A great number of companies are contributing to this project – including Berkeley Group, Highways Agency, Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine and UK CARES in terms of funding. In addition, BAM Construct UK, British Constructional Steelwork Association, Crossrail, Hanson UK, Lafarge Tarmac, Lend Lease Europe Ltd, Skanska UK and Tata Steel are providing contributions in-kind.

We are still approaching a number of stakeholders who may be interested in being involved. Click here for more information or contact philip.charles@ciria.org.