Balfour Beatty unveils sustainability progress

Engineering and construction group Balfour Beatty has revealed it made good progress in water and waste reduction between 2009 -2011 - although admits falling short in energy reduction.

In its 2011 Sustainability Report, published last week, it discloses how much headway has been made on the targets set in its 2020 roadmap, which launched in 2009, and identifies three broad areas for action, including environmental limits, profitable markets and healthy communities.

As a result, its 2020 vision sets targets which aim to improve the ‘durability’ of its water, energy, waste, and material resources in a bid to develop resilience against climate change and protect local ecosystems.

The roadmap aligns 31 key sustainability groups into 10 focus areas, such as focusing on business growth in markets that support the green economy, creating infrastructure that is resilient to a changing climate and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction among others, with milestones planned for 2012, 2015 and 2018 – before the final 2020 deadline to ensure progress stays on track.

Key achievements for 2011 highlighted in the report, include a 17% reduction in water use – exceeding a 10% target for 2012, and a 45% reduction in waste to landfill. It also now procures 34% of its UK major materials from recognised responsible sourcing schemes.

In terms of water reduction, figures show water use has decreased year-on-year since 2009, with consumption in 2011 at 203cu m, against 250cu m in 2010 – equating to an 18% reduction against its 2009 baseline.

However, it also notes areas where it has underachieved with energy and carbon emissions reduction at the forefront. As a result, it pledges to “renew” its focus on this in 2012, and outlines plans to help its customers reduce their emissions.

Figures show that while emissions from vehicles, plants and buildings decreased slightly in 2011 at 41.4tonnes down on 41.7tonnes in 2010 it admitted that achieving a 10% reduction in energy use would be “challenging” by 2012. This, it says is because of growth of energy-intensive construction projects.

The report states: “As well as seeking to reduce our own energy use, we see huge market opportunities for helping our customers reduce their own carbon footprints, build new low-carbon infrastructure and protect existing infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.”

Balfour Beatty group head of sustainability Jonathan Garrett says that it has continued to exploit new growth opportunities in the green economy by delivering £2.5bn of sustainable infrastructure investment in 2011, up from £2.3bn in 2010, as well as progression into energy from waste markets.

The report states that in terms of environmental limits the most demanding areas include energy reduction, responsible sourcing, climate change adaptation and indirect water use which all play a major role in infrastructure development.

It has attributed this to better monitoring of its UK businesses and the sale of its tradework business. However, the completion of its Aquatics Centre project in 2010, which used a significant amount of water has also had an effect.

As part of its strategy of focusing on green growth markets it says it is investing in offshore wind and is a preferred bidder on 40% of the current available assets.

It also states that progress is being made in other renewable energy infrastructure including straw biomass, energy plants, carbon capture and storage consultancy, as well as municipal waste facilities and greening of existing buildings.

According to Balfour, innovation in new technologies will play a key role in its 2020 vision for better water management with two projects commissioned to track water footprinting and climate change adaptation.

Carys Matthews

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