EXCLUSIVE: Balfour Beatty says cutting supply chain emissions 'cannot be top priority'

Multinational construction and engineering group Balfour Beatty, which operates in over 80 countries, has said that its global nature is hindering it from reducing its CO2 emissions.

Having released its annual sustainability report yesterday, the FTSE 250 company has defended its disappointing greenhouse gas emission figures, claiming they were par for the course for an international company.

Talking to edie, the company’s group head of sustainability and innovation Chris Whitehead acknowledged that the company had missed its 2012 global carbon reduction targets but said if it wanted to cut its CO2 it “would have to stay and die in the UK.”

Excluding its UK operations, Balfour Beatty increased its CO2 emissions from a 2010 baseline of 131,564 tonnes of CO2 equivalent to 205,178 tonnes.

However the company reduced its CO2 emissions within the UK by 33%.

"We have missed our 2012 target but that's really a reflection of the fact that our UK turnover is pretty static whereas elsewhere in the world our turnover is increasing and it's in those areas where carbon is more intensive such as operations like tunnelling in Hong Kong," said Whitehead.

"There are fewer clients, globally with the same aspirations as our UK clients.

"If we shut down the business or stay in the UK, our CO2 performance will look exemplary. Unfortunately we are part of the UK's export drive out of the recession," he said.

Mentioning the business's operations in Australia, South Africa and India, Whitehead said that the company's global nature did not help the company reduce its scope three emissions.

"If the UK wants to export, we can't make our scope three emissions our top priority. If we want to stay and die in the UK then we can reduce our CO2," he said.

Asked whether Balfour Beatty had the option to reduce its scope three emissions Whitehead said "not if we want to be an international business."

According to Whitehead, the reason the company is achieving more targets in the UK is because utilities make up a big part of its business.

This progress has been epitomised by schemes such as the Anglian water challenge, the Yorkshire water challenge and a partnership with the Highways Agency, which saved it £55m in the last three years through recycling materials.

The company has showed more positive results in reducing its waste to landfill, meeting its 2012 target of a 50% reduction.

Whitehouse also ventured that zero waste to landfill was "perfectly achievable" but that it would happen sooner in the UK than at its global operations.

In relation to water consumption, Whitehead admitted that "up to now, water measuring had not been as a high priority as it ought to be."

While direct UK water consumption fell by 22%, Balfour Beatty's global water consumption rose by 5% since 2011.

Whitehead added: "The upward trend in non-UK water is explainable by the fact that we've got better at measuring it rather than the fact that we use more."

Conor McGlone


| carbon reduction | CO2 | gas | Innovation | recession | supply chain | zero waste


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