Posted on October 6, 2021
Contractors must take more risks with new technology to move towards net-zero if the UK is to meet its carbon-reduction goals, Arcadis’s sustainability boss has said.
The firm’s chief of sustainability Alexis Haass told Construction News she expected contractors in the construction sector to take more risks to meet the UK’s sustainability goals, weeks after Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn told analysts the company cannot “take risks” on green technologies.
“Let me be really clear on this: we respond to customer demands,” Quinn said in August. “We’re not out there pushing the frontiers of new technology around zero-carbon concrete and the likes, because the technology is just too new and too nascent, and it will come with an awful lot of risk.”
But Haass said the sector should be looking into taking risks to adopt these technologies: “Pairing up with new kinds of suppliers and new innovations and doing pilots – frankly, you should be doing that within the industry,” she said.
“That is not just from a do-gooder perspective – this is the future of the industry.”
When asked about Quinn’s comments, she said: “From that perspective on the piloting and the innovation, I would be sorry to hear that’s not what [Balfour is] doing.”
Balfour Beatty joined the UN-backed Race To Zero campaign in August, which commits to halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Since 2010, it has reduced its carbon emissions by 55 per cent and, last month, it launched a ‘Carbon Conscious’ training programme, which it said would improve employees’ collective understanding of carbon, supporting efforts in reducing their individual and the business’ carbon footprint. It has also done work with the supply chain to explore what barriers they face to cutting emissions.
Haass’s comments came as Arcadis pledged to speed up its transition to net-zero, with the creation of a new global sustainability advisory services team. The consultancy said the team would work with clients and communities across the world to develop ways to support the push towards net-zero. Last month, Arcadis committed to reaching net-zero across its global operations by 2035.
Pushing to meet net-zero targets and to diversify towards zero-carbon technologies could also have major financial benefits for companies within the sector, Haass said: “If we’re going to get on track, so that 1.5 degree level is not passed, we’re going to literally need to rebuild, re-engineer or reinvent just about everything that we have in the built environment. And that’s a huge boon in business if you think about it that way.”
Arcadis was one of many construction companies to warn that the industry has to decarbonise rapidly following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on global warming published in August, which the head of the UN described as a “code red for humanity”.