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Low carbon credentials

4 Nov 21 Marshalls, the manufacturer of paving and hard landscaping products, reckons it has halved its carbon footprint since 2008 and aims to have reduced its carbon emissions per tonne of production by a further 40% by 2030.

And not content with boasting about its own carbon-reduction record, the company is now throwing down the gauntlet to other manufacturers and challenging them to match its environmental achievements.

Of course, other manufacturers also claim to be working towards carbon reduction targets but, says Marshalls, “there is potential for greenwash here”.

This article was first published in the September 2021 Top 100 Contractors issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online

“We want people to challenge the environment credential of the products they want to buy,” says Marshalls in a statement on its website. “Are there hard, verifiable facts behind any low carbon claims? Is there data to back up those claims? If there is, where has it come from? And who has verified that data? If there’s any doubt ask the manufacturer for proof.”

Marshalls first published its carbon data in 2004 and claims to be the only UK construction materials manufacturer to have its targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

A joint initiative by CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and WWF, Science Based Targets helps companies work toward reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to levels consistent with what scientist think is necessary to limit global warming to below 2oC.

In July, Marshalls set out its own carbon-reduction manifesto in a 24-page e-book: Marshalls’ Climate Challenge: One business’ attempt to change minds, change an industry and change the future.

Besides setting out what the company sees as the scale of the task facing the planet, as well as itself as a business, the book issues a challenge to Marshalls’ competitors to show the world how serious they are by bettering Marshalls’ carbon performance to 2030 and beyond:

“Publish your commitments, report your results and beat us to net-zero. Show us – and the whole industry – that you’re as serious about addressing the climate challenge as we are,” it says.

Marshalls, which claims to be the UK’s leading manufacturer of concrete and natural stone paving products, has adopted numerous measures to reduce its carbon profile since 2004 – such as reducing the amount of cement in its concrete without reducing the lifespan of its products.

Besides cutting the amount of cement it uses by 60%, Marshalls has switched to suppliers of renewable energy for all of its production sites, installed solar panels at two sites (with a commitment to add more) and introduced Euro 6 vehicles as standard across its transport fleet.

“We know the construction industry is one of the biggest global producers of carbon,” comments Chris Harrop, Marshalls’ group sustainability director.

“We have an enormous role to play in helping to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, which is why we have set science-based targets that are stretching but achievable and will make a real difference.”

According to Harrop, UK construction does not have a very impressive environmental record to date: “Just when we should be making serious inroads into carbon emissions, the sector has seen its emissions rise by 45% since 1990,” he says.

“Currently the Earth is expected to reach a temperature increase of 1.5oC in less than 12 years, the consequences of which will ultimately lead to significant, detrimental and irreversible change to the planet we live on. The construction industry must act now.”

This article was first published in the September 2021 Top 100 Contractors issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online

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A failure to employ consistent industry-wide standards means that customers and end-users are easily confused and cannot make like-for-like comparisons, says Harrop: “If a manufacturer offers a product that has a worse carbon footprint than one measured against a standard methodology to calculate carbon footprints, it’s easy for them to simply create a methodology for measuring that product.”

Marshalls would like to see PAS2050 – the specification for the assessment of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services – adopted as a default benchmark.

The company says that this current lack of consistency is what leads some organisations to implement well-intentioned policies and launch products that have little real impact on climate change; some actively greenwash messages for short-term commercial advantage.

“The biggest single thing that would make it easier to make an informed decision is consistency,” says Harrop. “We need to get to a point where everybody is on an even playing field, where everybody is open, honest, transparent and consistent about what they’re measuring.”

This article was first published in the September 2021 Top 100 Contractors issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online

Greening the supply chain

Marshalls offers two examples of how its commitment to carbon reduction has helped clients hit their environmental targets.

Last year, road maintenance contractor FM Conway carried out a six-week contract to replace the footpath and kerbs along King Street in St James for the London Borough of Westminster.

In awarding the contract the client factored-in proposals to minimise the carbon impact of the scheme without compromising quality of the design.

Marshalls proposed keeping the same product – its standard Pimple Paving – but replacing the specified 63mm-thick slabs with thinner 50mm slabs. It also recommended using a shallower foundation with an alternative pave bed and replacing the 10mm mortar joints with its proprietary Pavepoint product.

By using less material for the slabs and consequently less packaging, and reducing the amount of excavated material for the foundations, Marshalls calculates that it made a total saving of 27 tonnes of carbon and an embodied carbon saving of 4kg/m2 of material.

Meanwhile, in Gosport, Hampshire, Marshalls has helped Elite Nugen – a builder of ‘sustainable’ homes – create three low-energy garden designs for phase 1 of Priddy’s Hard, a redevelopment of Gosport’s old Naval Armaments Centre.

Marshalls created three garden designs – a child-friendly garden with a lawn, pet-friendly planting and sunken trampoline; a biodiversity garden with raised beds, wildflowers, fruit trees, greenhouse and pond; and an entertaining garden with seating area, outdoor kitchen, hot tubs and fire-pit.

Homebuyers can choose to include the design in the initial construction of their property or bring it in at a later date. The designs all offer an environmentally friendly garden tailored to their individual needs.

All the products used have full “cradle to grave” carbon footprints allocated to them, which are calculated for Marshalls by the Carbon Trust using methodology outlined in PAS2050.

This article was first published in the September 2021 Top 100 Contractors issue of The Construction Index magazine.  Sign up online

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