Why Construction Firms Should Think Differently on the Issue of Sustainability

The below is an article written by Rubicon’s Key Account Manager for Construction & Project Solutions, Chris Batterson, for Construction Executive.

How does a construction company differentiate itself from the competition? If the company owner don’t know the answer to this question, or if the first thought that popped into his or her mind was a generic answer along the lines of customer service, keep reading.

While all businesses should strive to deliver better results for their customers, if a construction firm is looking to stand out from the crowd, putting sustainability at the very center of everything it does will be a clear difference maker.

Finding ways to divert construction and demolition (C&D) waste materials away from landfills and into recycling streams is a must. Keeping track of and measuring your C&D recycling rates on a per-project basis, and also company-wide, can be the difference between winning and losing a contract.

Here is how construction firms need to begin to think differently on the issue of sustainability.

DON’T HAVE A RACE-TO-THE-BOTTOM MENTALITY

When a major organization courts a construction firm for a large project, it demands the highest of standards from the contractor. Being just another construction firm that competes in a race to the bottom won’t cut it at this level, and rightly so.

If a contractor is willing to make sustainability the cornerstone of its offering, it must go all-in. Half-hearted attempts to highlight sustainability credentials won’t cut it.

If the company’s goal is to deliver quantifiable sustainable solutions to it customers, tell them that and charge for services accordingly. Instead of looking at sustainability as something that simply needs to be checked off the list to move on with a project, the firm’s sustainability credentials should be at the forefront of its offering. Don’t shy away from going all-in on sustainability. Not only is this the right thing to do for the environment, it is a smart business decision that a firm can reap the benefits of for decades to come.

EMBRACE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are “integrated, transparent and universal,” in a bid to build a better world for people and the planet.

If a construction or demolition firm hadn’t spent the time to sit down with the SDGs, going through each of them one by one to determine which it’s currently contributing toward in a positive (or negative) way, now is the time to do so. This year alone, the impact of the SDGs is expected to increase across the C&D industry, as more companies will look to them as a roadmap toward how they can align company’s goals and strategies with these important leavers.

In the same arena, the growth of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting continues on as more and more companies, including construction and demolition firms, are recognizing the importance of providing transparency to all stakeholders—customers, employees, investors and the general public—while at the same time improving their ESG ratings. These ratings can be used as a means to encourage more companies in the construction and demolition industry to report on their current sustainability credentials and plan for the future. This will work in contractors’ favors if they decide to think differently on the issue of sustainability and to do the work necessary to make it the centerpiece of their companies.

LOOK TOWARD C&D SUSTAINABILITY

Research shows that consumers spanning a wide range of industries say they want more sustainable products and services—and they’re willing to pay for it. This is an important development, as it wasn’t so long ago that the gap between those saying they wanted to do right by the environment and those saying they were willing to pay more for it, was much wider.

Actions speak louder than words, and now that purchasing decisions are being made based on whether or not a company has a clear sustainability mission in place, it’s clearly time for construction firms to reconsider their outlook toward the circular economy.

The way our planet’s waste and recycling is processed should matter to all of us. In the construction and demolition industry, a large proportion of what comes out of a project can be recycled in one form or another. Metals, concrete, gypsum and wood can all be diverted into recycling streams. This begs the question: what do you want to be known as? A construction firm recycling an overwhelming majority of material and doing the right thing for the environment, or a construction firm that is known for dumping all of your clients’ waste in landfills?

The choice is yours.

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