Laing O’Rourke has launched global sustainability targets which include a commitment to decarbonise its operations by 2030 and to achieve equal numbers of men and women among its 5,500 staff.
The decarbonisation target, which will also see the company develop a plan to tackle supply chain (Scope 3) emissions before 2050, is aligned with The Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius.
Samantha Hoe-Richardson has been appointed as group advisor on climate change and sustainability and will advise the company’s environmental and technical leaders and challenge the Board and Group Executive on progress towards the targets.
“As a family-owned business, we have long been focused on delivering lasting benefits to our clients, our people and the communities our projects serve,” said Laing O’Rourke Group CEO, Ray O’Rourke. “We’ve made progress delivering our environmental plan, but the simple fact is the climate emergency demands we do more and with greater urgency. The same is true of diversity, which remains unacceptably low in our sector.
“The construction industry has some difficult challenges to solve, most notably that of reducing the embodied carbon in concrete. But I know our people have the passion to make a real difference and the experience to work with others, including our clients and partners, to deliver the progress required.”
Absolute reduction in carbon emissions
The company will deliver an absolute reduction in carbon emissions from its directly controlled operations (Scope 1 & 2 emissions) of at least 75% by 2030, with the remaining 25% achieved through carbon removal activities or offsetting.
Laing O’Rourke has already achieved a 1.5 million kWh reduction in its electricity usage in the year to March 2020 and to achieve a 75% reduction in absolute carbon emissions, its teams are developing plans to further improve energy efficiency and to transition to biofuels as a stepping-stone to the full electrification of operations (including car fleet and plant).
Laing O’Rourke Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction
The company is transitioning to an all-electric company car fleet; converting all company offices and project sites to renewable energy tariffs and investing in commercial solar panels to power all operations at the Laing O’Rourke Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction (CEMC), as part of the decarbonisation plan which will evolve in response to advances in technology.
It will work with clients, suppliers and academic partners to innovate and develop ways to reduce supply chain emissions and through the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology at Cambridge University, will increase research into decarbonising construction and advancing the knowledge of its own employees and others.
The majority of the business’s emissions relate to materials such as concrete and steel and Laing O’Rourke will work with its suppliers to embed Scope 3 data capture and reporting across all projects globally; work with strategic suppliers to develop emissions reduction targets; continue to invest in R&D to accelerate the development of low and zero carbon products manufactured offsite at its UK facility or with global partners and support the delivery of clients’ net zero ambitions through wider use of its engineering carbon calculator to help optimise design for sustainability.
In the last decade the business has invested £200m in the CEMC in Nottinghamshire – the most advanced concrete products manufacturing facility in Europe – which will play a vital role in delivering the new goals by producing lower carbon components for more of the company’s projects.
With co-funding from the Industrial Strategy ‘Transforming Construction’ Challenge, Laing O’Rourke and nine partners are progressing a project called Product Based Building Solutions, to streamline the end-to-end project delivery process with a kit of manufactured concrete components. The project is targeting 30% operational and 50% embodied carbon reduction.
Alongside this, the company’s R&D team is working on ways to decarbonise manufactured concrete products and CEMC has applied to Innovate UK’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund to part- finance this work.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “It is extremely encouraging to see Laing O’Rourke stepping up its public sustainability commitments at this point in time – and to become a net zero carbon firm across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2050. Accompanying this carbon commitment with highly ambitious targets on diversity, wellbeing and jobs through innovative construction methods should also ensure the firm plays its part in delivering a just and fair decarbonisation transition. UKGBC looks forward to supporting Laing O’Rourke achieve its goals and collaborate with others along the way.”
Laing O’Rourke has also set a new target to ensure the number of men and women employed in its international staff (currently 5,500 people) are equal by 2033, with additional gender-focused initiatives to be set out to improve representation among frontline construction workers.
It will also apply the learnings from the successful pilot of a Gender Diversity Action Plan in Australia, which has increased the number of women in senior project roles by 36% in 12 months, and the STEM+ schools programme that is now being delivered on construction projects in both operating hubs.
The company will also develop plans to increase the representation of people from different groups and will continue its work to transform the inclusivity and sustainability of construction careers, through a number of measures including linking gender and cultural diversity outcomes to the success metrics of projects.
Laing O’Rourke group director, Madeleina Loughrey-Grant, said: “The people across our business are driven by a strong sense of purpose, innovation and curiosity and, through the power of our collective experience, we will find the solutions needed to solve some of the biggest issues of our time. We will continue to challenge ourselves as we redefine how we deliver for our clients and for society, and in how we care for our people.”
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