All business organisations whether big or small, private or publicly-owned, make significant contributions to the growth and development of our economy. Effects of globalisation and industrialisation, especially in the developed countries, have had a great impact of the economic growth of most business organisations, either directly or indirectly. This has in turn affected both national and global economies in a positive way but unfortunately, this increased rate of industrial growth has not been without hitches. Many business organisations have been accused of engaging in practices which are environmentally unfriendly, hence leading to the severe global problems (such global warming, climate changes and poverty) being experienced in the world today.
The increased concerns for environmental conservation triggered by cases of global warming and climate changes have compelled many companies to adopt strategies aimed at achieving a more sustainable development in our economy. Sustainable development refers to the act of maximising the utilisation of available resources to meet the needs of the current generation, without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their needs. Efforts for sustainable development are not just for large business corporations (Lantos 2001: 12-23). Small and medium companies have been found to contribute a great deal to environmental conservation and in fact, contemporary research findings have shown that, such companies are usually at a greater advantage than the larger organisations due to less constrictions by bureaucracy which provides room for faster decision making and implementation processes. In this case, the adoption of environmentally friendly business practices is more flexible, consistent and effective in small companies than in large companies.
This paper seeks to address the issue of how sustainability can be embedded at Carillion plc a construction company based in UK, why it is important, potential difficulties of implementing sustainability in this kind of an organisation and finally, a design criteria on how sustainable concerns can be integrated in the organisation to provide new business opportunities.
Carillion plc is a leading provider of construction services in UK with operations all over Britain, Canada, Caribbean island, Middle East and other parts of Europe (Sustainability at Work 2004: 1-6). This company was established in 1999 after a de-merger from Tarmac Construction Services company established back in 1903. Sustainability efforts at Tarmac Construction began in the early 1990s. These efforts were primarily prompted by the growing environmental concerns and public awareness on the need to conserve the environment. The company’s first environmental policy was passed in 1994 to integrate environmental matters on the company’s corporate governance (CIRIA Guide C571: 2001).
In 1999, when the UK government developed a sustainable development policy, the company expanded its environmental sustainability efforts to include the social impacts of its construction operations in a bid to address the impact of its operations to the local communities, compliance to labour standards, among other issues relevant to the society. At this point, the company developed new strategies to link its environmental concerns to the social issues raised by its construction projects. The company has since been frequently evaluating its business strategies to make sure it conforms to the environmental and social issues through its ‘sun’ diagram and business strategy model.
Since its launch in 1999 as a construction services company, Carillion has experienced massive growth in providing services to various sectors in the UK and oversees (Sustainability at Work 2004: 1-6). This rapid growth has been attributed to its sustainability business approach which has enhanced its competitiveness, earned it many new clients as well as global recognition as an environmentally sensitive company.
Why I chose this company.
Construction and maintenance of roads, buildings and other infrastructure affects the quality of human life in numerous ways. Construction processes alter the physical outlook or appearance of human surroundings through the process of building, repair, demolition and waste generation. Over the past one decade or so, the construction industry has experienced major improvements due to new innovations in the areas of technology, IT and project management. This has enabled most construction companies to cater for the growing demand from the clients to deliver quality services.
In the recent past, the clients’ demands in the construction industry have shifted towards a preference for sustainable products to complement their strategic plans. As a result, construction companies like Carillion plc have been forced to adopt sustainable construction processes in order to meet this new client demands. Though its origins are rooted in the tarmac construction services, Carillion plc also deals with construction in the health industry, commercial properties, road and rail construction among others. As a construction company, Carillion has intensified its efforts to embed sustainable concerns in all areas of its business operations.
Possible sustainable project for Carillion.
A sustainable construction project is a process, an activity and an outcome. For this reason, a sustainability approach must be integrated into all stages of construction which span from the stage of ‘land and buildings selection’ all the way to ‘end of life stage’ when the project is completed. The key elements of a sustainable construction project for Carillion in form of a value chain would include:
This value chain indicates all the possible stages of a sustainable construction project. To embed sustainability issues in the construction operations at Carillion plc, the design of all this stages need to be taken into account before the commencement of the construction process.
Lands and buildings selection;- At this stage, a sustainability approach should be employed to analyse and evaluate the environmental impacts of the project.
Design;- A sustainable design should be integrated into the construction process as early as possible to ensure best results. This involves understanding the whole construction process together with its environmental and social impacts.
Planning;- This stage provides a critical juncture for the integration between the company’s decision making processes and issues concerning sustainable development.
Contracting;- This involves the tendering of contractors, engineers and suppliers in readiness for the actual construction process. At this point, it is important for the company to ensure that all the supplied materials are environmental friendly and that both the contractors and suppliers are professional and environmentally sensitive. For instance, Carillion plc can make use of sustainable flooring materials in most of its hospital developments, instead of using floor materials made from vinyl polymers.
Construction;- This is the actual physical construction process and at this point, the company should consider optimum usage of the available resources with minimum environmental impacts. This involves things like waste management and recycling, less environmental pollution in terms of noise and waste disposal, optimum energy utilisation, and so forth.
Refurbishment;- This is also known as the rebuild stage. Since refurbishment of buildings often yields large volumes of wastes, a thorough design is needed to minimise the effects on the surrounding environment. This involves coming up with recycling and reclamation plans of the materials linked to the construction design.
End of life;- Sustainability issues at this stage are closely linked to the other stages in the value chain. This is also known as the demolition stage or de-construction stage, and it involves the complete dismantling of the building materials which are later re-used or disposed of, depending on the clients’ preference. This stage normally confers significant impacts on the environment in terms of waste production and for this reason, a sustainability approach is vital at this point of the construction project.
Steps for development of sustainable construction.
The process of integrating sustainability in designing, developing, constructing and maintaining sustainable buildings and infrastructure by Carillion plc would involve six major steps. This steps are mainly aimed at embedding sustainability issues into the design and implementation of construction projects. These steps involve;
Active organisational leadership which is focused on sustainable development.
A defined business strategy which places value on sustainability.
Integration of sustainability concerns into the company’s decision making processes.
Development of a vision statement which sets targets and benchmarks the performance of the construction project.
Engaging the client or the end user in the project.
Monitor the performance of projects carried out over time to measure the sustainable development value of the project.
Challenges of sustainability.
One of the greatest challenges of sustainability in the UK construction sector has to do with compliance versus leadership. A majority (95 percent) of UK companies involved in the construction industry are SMEs and though most leaders are keen on the issue of sustainability, the issue of compliance to sustainable development is still a major problem for many companies (Alan & Lesley 2006: 4-7). Another issue of concern involves the increased costs of producing sustainable products which most clients are often unwilling to meet. Moreover, the process of integrating sustainability issues into the business context requires major decisions and policies by the company. Despite this, the benefits which come with a sustainable construction process far outdo the challenges of sustainability.
Benefits of sustainability.
One of the most important benefits incurred by Carillion from its sustainability efforts is enhanced competitiveness in both the local and international markets. This has earned the company many new clients both in UK and other countries abroad as well as much recognition for its sustainable products. According to company reports based on clients’ feedbacks, most customers cite the sustainability aspect of Carillion’s project proposals as the main reason they chose they chose to hire the company’ construction services (Ding ; Langston 2001: 21). This shows that, Carillion’s sustainability business approach has put it at a higher competitive advantage over other players in the construction industry when all other factors such as price are held constant.
Another benefit of sustainability approach for Carillion is that, it has reduced the company’s risks in the bottom-line revenue hence increasing its profits and more so, the improved reputation among the company’s stake-holders and clients acts a s security for the its future productivity (Anderson & Bateman 2000: 548-570). In addition, the sustainability business approach has earned Carillion a lot of recognition both locally and internationally. For instance, Carillion recently received a top award for having environmentally and socially responsible business practices and it was also voted as the UK Company of Year in 2004.
A win-win equation.
For Carillion, adopting a sustainability approach in its construction operations is a win-win situation. This is evident in most of its operations and the numerous business benefits garnered from this business approach. For instance, to improve its waste management processes and reduce the amount of wastes released to the environment during the recent construction of a new government communication centre located in Cheltenham, Carillion initiated a series of action plans in all the construction processes. This action plans were aimed at optimising the level water and energy utilisation, maximising the opportunities provided by the project to the local communities while minimising the negative social impacts of the project. All these efforts were found to save more than 200,000 miles which could have been covered by the lorries during transportation of materials hence reducing the amount of carbon emissions which could have been contributed to the environment.
In addition, its waste management processes were found to achieve a recycling of about 48 percent of total waste produced. This was highly profitable for the company in that there were less construction costs incurred which translated into higher revenue. On the other hand, the reduced amount of carbon emissions emitted during the transportation process and the high level of waste management had a very positive impact on the surrounding environment and the local communities as well. This is a good example of a win-win situation brought about by sustainability whereby, the company gains economic advantage and the environment is protected at the same time.
The process on embedding sustainability in business organisation either in the private or the public sector is a complex issue which needs companies to cross-cut between matters concerning their long terms business strategies and those involving environmental protection. The increased environmental concerns in the past few years have led to a shift in the demands placed on the construction industry hence compelling construction companies to adopt new ways of ensuring sustainable construction.
Many approaches have come up seeking to integrate economic, social and environmental aspects of business into their business in a bid to enhance sustainable development. To embed sustainability issues into the business context of Carillion plc construction company, core sustainability strategies are vital to integrate the sustainable projects within the company’s long term business strategy.
It can thus be concluded that, though faced by many implementation challenges, most sustainability efforts present a win-win situation whereby the company garners an economic advantage and on the other hand, the environment is protected hence ;leading to sustainable development. An effective framework of sustainability improves the business competitiveness by improving its overall image and promoting better processes for decision making.
Alan, S., ; Lesley, H. (2006). Sustainable Development Policy Directory. London: Blackwell Publishing.
Andersson, L., ; Bateman, T. (2000). Individual environmental initiative: championing natural environmental issues in business organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 548-570.
CIRIA Guide C571. (2001). Sustainable Construction Procurement. A Guide to Delivering Environmentally Responsible Projects. London: CIRIA.
Ding, G., ; Langston, C. (2001). Sustainable Practices in the Built Environment. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Lantos, G. (2001). The boundaries of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 18(7), 595-630.
Sustainability at Work. (2004). Carillion – Embedding Sustainability with the Organisation. Retrieved on 18 November, 2008, from ;;http://www.sustainabilityatwork.org.uk/;;