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A bottom-up approach to enhance environmental sustainability reporting-evidence from the UK and USA construction sector

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Oliver Heidrich


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This paper addresses some of the current deficiencies in industrial policy on environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. The first part takes stock of the broader transatlantic trends, highlighting the current reporting practices from construction firms in the USA and UK. It describes the legal and the regulatory policies that underpin sustainability and CSR reporting. We present guidelines and standards that are used by 10 US and 10 UK construction companies and propose a customized framework to enhance sustainability and CSR reporting. This framework builds on the existing management systems and demonstrate how the 20 companies have utilised their existing financial, social and environmental reporting mechanisms. The role of the construction industry is vital to provide sustainable building stocks and infrastructure systems, which is underpinned by the notion of environmental protection, conservation of natural resources and reduction of emissions (Reyna and Chester, 2015; Alim and Polak, 2016). Energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting, carbon management systems and the associated reporting are more and more common place as investors, regulators, customers, and employees increasingly demand this kind of information (Melville and Whisnant, 2014). We propose leveraging existing quality environment and health and safety management systems (QMS, EMS, H&S preferably audited against standards such as ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001) as the primary source of data for sustainability measurements. Life Cycle Assessments, Cost Benefit Analysis, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and other reports that feed into these management systems serve as other important data sources. Improved sustainability performance would be indicated by, e.g. reduction of waste and emission; Life Cycle Assessment can also identify new practices to reduce emissions from SMEs (Heidrich and Tiwary, 2013). Our transatlantic analysis identifies organization size as an important differentiator in CSR reporting. The main policy context emerging from this study is in promoting a bottom-up approach in enhancing uptake of CSR as a mechanism for ensuring greater environmental sustainability of the entire sector, including its supply-chains. These bear significant relevance to devising effective policy instruments at the public-private nexus towards strengthening sector-wide environmental sustainability alongside enhancing industrial efficiency and profitability. Further research is warranted to address this issue and identify the best and most cost-effective manner for SMEs to acquire e.g. LCA data, potentially through pooling of their resources with other companies. References Alim, S. and Polak, J. (2016) 'Public-private partnerships for future urban infrastructure', Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers: Management, Procurement and Law, 169(4), pp. 150-158. Heidrich, O. and Tiwary, A. (2013) 'Environmental appraisal of green production systems: Challenges faced by small companies using life cycle assessment', International Journal of Production Research, 51(19), pp. 5884-5896. Melville, N.P. and Whisnant, R. (2014) 'Energy and Carbon Management Systems: Organizational Implementation and Application Melville and Whisnant Energy and Carbon Management System', Journal of Industrial Ecology, 18(6), pp. 920-930. Reyna, J.L. and Chester, M.V. (2015) 'The Growth of Urban Building Stock: Unintended Lock-in and Embedded Environmental Effects', Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19(4), pp. 524-537.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Heidrich O, Alim S, Tiwary A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 9th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE)- Science in Support of Sustainable and Resilient Communities

Year of Conference: 2017

Print publication date: 25/06/2017

Online publication date: 25/06/2017

Acceptance date: 01/01/2017


Series Title: Science in Support of Sustainable and Resilient Communities

Sponsor(s): EU FP7- RAMSES