Interserve updates sustainability targets to account for business growth

Construction firm Interserve has set new sustainability goals for 2020 and 2025 to better reflect the "sheer scale and change" of the business, which has reduced construction waste by a quarter and carbon emissions by almost 20% since 2013.

Halfway through its SustainAbilities plan conceived in 2013, Interserve has decided to “review and refresh” the plan to focus on internal changes, driven by a 50% increase in business capacity since 2013. Following extensive consultation, Interserve has honed new efficiency targets for 2020 alongside long-term goals for 2025.

Targets for sustainability have been extended. Notably, a goal to reduce carbon emissions has been modified from a 50% absolute reduction by 2020 to 60% relative reduction (tonnes of CO2e/£m) for 2025, having so far achieved an 18% reduction in carbon intensity against the 2013 baseline.

Speaking to edie, Interserve’s group finance director and head of sustainability Tim Haywood said: “One of the reasons we moved from absolute to relative is to reflect the sheer scale and change in our business. It was a huge swing that we couldn’t accommodate, even in the best sustainability plans.

“This has always been a personal plan for Interserve, we created it for ourselves, we used it for the betterment of our business and the new plan reflects the change in nature of our business. We wanted to be better able to communicate this to our customers and our people, and we honed it more sharply to make it a better selling tool internally and externally. But the primary driver is the changing nature of our business.”

The company spent a large part of 2015 growing in size and expanding its influence among various communities. The £1.6m it spent in community engagement two years ago – equivalent to 1.4% of its pre-tax profits – was dwarfed by the £864m it spent on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within its supply chains. Despite the growth, carbon emissions have continuously shrunk.

The majority of Interserve’s emissions derive from fuel consumption from vehicle fleets and energy generation on construction sites. Interserve recorded a 5% reduction in carbon emissions from business travel and a 23% reduction in carbon intensity. In total, 74% of Interserve’s UK operations are powered by renewable energy.

Looking ahead, Interserve will consider implementing science-based targets, and will turn to telematic smart phone driver apps to raise awareness of fuel usage and provide upgrades to efficient lighting, insulation and air conditioning units to accelerate carbon reduction.

Waste achievement

Having avoided the use of 55,000 tonnes of waste, Interserve reached a target of reducing global construction waste by 25% against the 2013 baseline. Interserve currently diverts 92% of UK construction waste away from landfill, and waste management equates to a 40% reduction when business growth is taken into consideration.

For future targets, waste will be tackled alongside existing goals to conserve water as part of a wider aim of “improving resource efficiency”. Interserve reduced water consumption by 14% since 2013, and 1.1bn litres of water use has been displaced by a brown water recycling system. A target to reduce use of resources and waste by 40% by 2020 will be normalised by turnover.

A target for 2018 to assess and act on customer vulnerability to water scarcity is no longer considered relevant to stakeholders, who don’t consider it an area where sustainability can be influenced. This target has therefore been dropped.

Revenue and social returns

Interserve’s group sustainability manager Laura Spiers told edie it was important that the new goals reflected that the company was generating revenue through services that benefitted society – a benefit which wasn’t being produced with the water scarcity target.

“If you look at the plan and where we’re taking it, one of the areas for growth and success for Interserve is that we are generating revenue and successful business opportunities through offering services that give something back to society,” Spiers said.

“We must drive positive change as well as the sustainability elements that we embed into our contract delivery. It’s important to keep a long-term direction of travel to deliver sustainable outcomes and focus more on the efficiency aspect of resource use. It was the right time for change.”

Regarding contract delivery, 52% of suppliers are currently covered by Interserve’s sustainability code of conduct. Partnerships to help and deliver sustainable solutions have also been established with 14 further educational institutions.

For supplies, UK operations achieved 99% certified sustainable timber sourcing, with 80% of global timber procurement certified to FSC or PEFC standards. Interserve ensured that 89% of products containing palm oil were accredited to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard.

For future targets, Interserve will aim to ensure that 95% of products are responsibly sourced, and 80% of products are traceable to source by 2020. By 2025, Interserve wants to embed leading practices of corporate human rights standards and to ensure that all key suppliers participate in its “forward thinking” programme.

Matt Mace

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