Supply Chain Sustainability School’s Carbon Tool

A tool to make carbon more visible across the supply chain.

Last updated: 15th April 2021

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Summary

The construction industry understands the role it can play in reducing carbon emissions but the supply chain needs more help in tracking and assessing carbon impact. The Supply Chain Sustainability School has created a Climate Action Group to address this, and invested in the development of a Carbon Tool which is free for partners. The software helps the supply chain visualise and track their carbon footprint and share it in real-time on a cloud-based dashboard so decisions can be made on how to reduce it. The tool enables uniform carbon reporting and will help set new benchmarks and standards across the industry to meet net zero targets.

Innovation type: Digital, Skills
Organisation type: Supply chain

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Project pioneers

The Supply Chain Sustainability School has a mission to help the supply chain reduce its use of embodied carbon and help reach net zero by 2050. It is made up of partners and members from across the sector. It uses training, development and accessible tools and resources to up-skill the industry. The school’s Climate Action Group (CAG) is a leadership forum of like-minded businesses who have come together to help the supply chain reduce carbon emissions in the products, processes and services it uses. It is a proactive initiative by the industry for the industry, funded by the Construction Industry Training Board and industry members.

The problem

Contractors and suppliers increasingly understand the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the supply chain but they don't have the know-how to calculate or report on embodied carbon to be able to change it. Added to that, different organisations ask for different information and each organisation has its own format for tracking and measuring carbon. This means that it is incredibly challenging for anyone in the supply chain to manage and reduce their carbon impact. Lack of access to useful, consistent data or tools means reducing carbon is often an afterthought on a project, when it is too late to make significant improvements.

Vision

The Carbon Tool will make the invisible, visible. Available to SCSS partners, the software is an easy way to track, access and manage their carbon data. The dashboard displays the data in real time, from the start of a construction programme to handover, and will help the supply chain make more informed decisions about materials and processes as they go. The guidance and training offered by the Supply Chain Sustainability School will also help suppliers better understand how to make effective changes. This increased visibility will support whole-life value not just short-term cost, and improve the overall industry's performance against targets to meet net zero.

Key Insight

Ever since chairing the Commission for a Sustainable London around the 2012 Olympics, Supply Chain Sustainability School chair Shaun McCarthy has been driven by the need to make sustainability a more quantifiable concept. Knowing how difficult it can be for the supply chain to calculate and track carbon data on a project, he wanted to present carbon impact in a more empirical way. So when the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS) set up the Climate Action Group, there was an opportunity to develop a software tool for its partners to help them identify carbon impact and set their own targets for net zero. Sustainability is moving to the top of clients' buying decisions and they are now expecting carbon emissions data to be tracked on a project in a uniform way. The tool has the potential to help the supply chain be more proactive around sustainability, and benchmark themselves against their competitors.

First step

The first step was for the Supply Chain Sustainability School to engage with organisations across the value chain, starting with clients, to understand the importance of measuring and monitoring their carbon output and identify a baseline before taking action as to how they reduce it. Equipped with these insights, the School went on to develop a carbon solution for its partners, adapting existing sustainability software that had already been developed by Action Sustainability.

Barrier

Measuring and managing carbon use is critical to reaching net zero and yet is currently being tracked in an inefficient, inexact and time-intensive way. The Supply Chain Sustainability School has removed a significant barrier by providing a tool at no cost to its partners, so companies can report on carbon impact in a uniform, efficient and effective way.

Digital Innovation

Good carbon management relies on good data. The Carbon Tool gives SCSS partners clearer, more transparent and more accessible ways to track carbon outputs and understand where performance is good, or where it's not as good as it should be. As a cloud-based system, it means partners can collect, analyse and report carbon data in one place. The data can be inputted at the time it is measured, meaning contractors and suppliers can see the same real-time picture of carbon impact on any given project. It relies on five simple process steps:

  1. Firstly a supplier organisation enters consumption data such as fuel consumption, kilometres travelled, kilowatts of electricity used, etc
  2. The system uses this information to automatically calculate the supplier organisation’s entire carbon footprint
  3. The supplier organisation can track their carbon emissions over time in a simple dashboard, which shows the difference hotspots of their carbon emissions
  4. The supplier can opt to share their carbon data to their clients in the system by either selecting their clients from the list of available organisations using the system. Or they can apportion their carbon by entering the percentage of turnover that each client represented for them in the reporting period
  5. The client organisations receive the apportioned carbon figures which tells them how much carbon is embedded in their supply chain. The dashboard displays all this information clearly and a Red-Amber-Green (RAG) rating makes it easier for contractors and suppliers to spot risks or low performance against objectives and correct them. The important element is that supply chain partners are not being asked to calculate or estimate carbon data as that’s what the tool calculates, aggregates and allocates. In this way it will create uniformity around how carbon is measured, while at the same time minimising the effort needed in gathering, handling and uploading datasets.

Whole life innovation

Because it creates a full, connected picture of carbon impact, the tool has the potential to create new standards and benchmarks across the industry for carbon outputs, and capture significant data about how to reduce it across the supply chain - from embodied carbon right through distribution, asset use and demolition re-purpose.

Collaborators

The Climate Action Group is a pan-sector, special interest group within the Supply Chain Sustainability School, made up of like-minded member companies across construction who want to help the industry reduce carbon impact and met net zero targets.

  • Climate Action Group
  • Supply Chain Sustainability School

Lead support

The Supply Chain Sustainability School develops knowledge and skills in sustainability across the built environment through resources, education, training and tools. It has over 10,000 registered members. It is chaired by Shaun McCarthy and was conceived by Action Sustainability.

Long Term Vision

As much as 90% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are in the materials and products that the construction supply chain buy and install. So reducing carbon in the supply chain can have a huge impact in meeting net zero targets. The Carbon Tool will make carbon visible so SCSS partners can make quicker, more informed decisions about how to reduce it. It will make it easier for them to spot risk and course correct on a project when it can make a significant difference, rather than report on it at the end when it's too late to make changes.

Human Stories

The transparency of the cloud-based tool and the simplicity of the dashboard will help contractors or subcontractors see the carbon impact they are having on a project. This will create shared ownership and accountability across the supply chain for carbon reduction.

Powerful Processes

The software is designed to process complex data against against 300 carbon metrics and simplify it for good, effective decision making. Using graphs, models, charts and Red-Amber-Green (RAG) ratings, the Carbon Tool makes the carbon outputs visible for suppliers and contractors and helps them meet project objectives or course correct when they are at risk of missing them. The cloud-based software also gives SCSS partners access to carbon data at the same time for transparency and collaborative decision making.

Fascinating Facts

60 clients, contractors and suppliers were consulted with to develop the tool. Hundreds of companies in the supply chain are now using it to measure and monitor carbon output more efficiently. Benchmark data is not yet available due to the Covid-19 pandemic delaying uptake.

Benefits

Collaboration
The Climate Action Group within the Supply Chain Sustainability School is made up of like-minded organisations who may compete in the market place, but have come together to solve a bigger industry challenge that impacts them all. They have collaborated with 60 clients, contractors and suppliers, and engaged hundreds of companies in the supply chain, to begin to measure and monitor carbon output more efficiently.

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