UK construction firms have ramped up sustainability efforts, edie report finds

EXCLUSIVE: Almost two-thirds of businesses operating in the construction industry are now more committed to taking action on sustainability than they were 12 months ago, despite having to deal with challenges caused by a lack of funding and an unstable policy environment.

That’s according to a brand new ‘sector insight’ report launched by edie today (4 April), which includes an in-depth survey of 63 sustainability and energy professionals working across the UK construction industry.


The survey revealed that 57% of respondents are working for a construction company that has increased action on sustainability since 2017. In fact, not one respondent claimed to be working for a construction firm that had decreased its sustainability ambitions, with the remaining 43% of respondents instead claiming there had been no change in their organisation’s level of commitment to sustainability.

“There is a clear appetite among industry leaders to ramp up action on sustainability,” the report states. “Berkeley Group, for example, has pledged to become carbon-positive; while property developer Landsec has gone one step further by having its carbon-reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.”

Investment priorities

The 29-page sector insight report goes on to reveal that sustainable development is more likely to driven by larger-sized construction companies, with 63% of the survey respondents representing organisations with more than 500 employees claiming that the business is more committed to sustainability than it was a year ago.

However, for smaller construction businesses, the picture appears to be slightly less positive, with 56% of respondents representing SMEs identifying no change in a level of the business’s commitment to sustainability. These companies are also typically dealing with tighter finances: 42% of SME respondents claimed to be operating with an annual budget of less than £20k for sustainability activities. 

In terms of sustainability investment priorities, almost half of the respondents (47%) cited energy-efficiency upgrades as a “significant” investment area for their construction business. Waste management and resource efficiency measures (34%) and sustainable product design and innovation (33%) completed the top three areas of investment across the sector.

‘Shift in mindset’

edie’s sector insight report was produced with support from the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC), whose chief executive Julie Hirigoyen provides her own expert view into how the sector can pave the way to a better built environment. 

Hirigoyen states: “It is clear that the future for this industry cannot be a repeat of the past. Whether it’s through physical conditions, resource constraints, skills shortages, or demand pressures, a shift in mindset is required to turn such challenges into opportunities and avoid major disruption.”

The report combines the survey results with an array of key industry facts and stats, inspiring sustainability success stories and best-practice case studies from businesses across the UK construction industry. It goes on to explore three drivers, four challenges and five opportunities facing sustainability professionals in the sector.

This is the fifth in edie’s series of sector insight reports, following similar analysis into retailmanufacturing, food and drink and the public sector. The next sector insight report, investigating the state of sustainability in the hospitality industry, will be published in May.

Read the full construction sector insight report here.

edie staff

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