Going carbon neutral by 2022

The 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) was held in Bonn in November 2017, where business and regulatory leaders from around the world convened to agree the next steps for the global climate agenda.

It was a moment to reflect on how important it is to all of us that we work together to take climate change. 

At the same time, Mace announced that we had joined RE100, a group of businesses who are committed to reducing their use of non-renewable power to zero. 

Our commitment is that by 2022, we will source all of our power from renewable sources; and we are aiming for 75% by 2019. It’s a huge commitment – but one that we think is necessary. 

It’s not always recognised that construction plays a huge role in global climate emissions, in terms of emissions generated directly from site activities, and also from extraction, production and transportation of materials. 

We believe that construction companies like Mace have a responsibility to lead the way on sustainability.

For example in the UK, around 50% of CO2 emissions are linked in some way to the construction and operation of the built environment. This means that everyone in our sector has a massive role to play in reducing emissions. 

Many project sustainability measures and solutions are driven by the client team, rather than the contractor.  For example, BREEAM or LEED accreditations are something to be proud of; but the contractor’s involvement can be limited as green building certification focuses more heavily on the design and operation of a building, than construction delivery. 

A primary measure of how responsible we consider a construction company to be is how they build, as well as what they build. 

The conversation in the sector needs could move from output to outcomes – how can we reduce the carbon generated in the construction process?   

In 2017, Mace used 18 GWh of power in our sites and offices. Since 2013, we’ve had a long-running and successful partnership with Ecotricity to ensure that all our offices and sites are powered by renewable energy. So in 2017 64% of our power was renewable. We’ll achieve a little more in 2018. We think that’s quite an achievement – but this new commitment means going even further. 

It means mandating the procurement of on-site equipment and generators that aren’t fuelled by diesel, as well as making sure that all of our teams and supply chain partners understand our intentions with respect to minimising emissions. 

Part of the reason we’ve signed up to RE100 is to lead by example and encourage others in the industry – our contractor peers, our supply chain partners, and our clients – to consider making a similar commitment.  

Some people might consider this commitment to be an unnecessary burden to place on small suppliers, but we disagree. It may sound bold, but we know the supplier community is ready. Many of our suppliers are nimble, and they’re already exploring how to ensure their business models are resilient by investing in greener technology. 

In the same way that progress has been made very quickly on phasing diesel out of use in private vehicles, we believe that diesel use on-site will drop very quickly once momentum starts to build.

The main reason we’ve committed to RE100 is straightforward – it makes sound business sense. We’re not just doing this because we think it’s good for the planet, we’re doing it because it’s the right decision for Mace’s future. Moving to diesel-alternatives and renewable energy sources means that our energy costs will be predictable, and our business operations will be resilient and future-proofed. 

The long term outlook for fossil fuels and high carbon energy generation is unpredictable at best; and our judgement is that we’d rather be on the front lines of adapting to the new world than catching up with others who led the way.

Construction can – and should be – a beacon to other industries of how to deliver energy intensive activities in a sustainable and efficient way. 

If we don’t adapt now, we can expect that client expectations, as well as regulation and legislation, will evolve quickly, and we might find ourselves to not be prepared. 

Initiatives like RE100 have the potential to change how we think about the construction industry, by offering a clear structure for achievable outcomes and creating a common ambition in the sector. We hope that by signing up Mace is able to send a message to the sector that it’s possible to deliver complex iconic projects, while also being a responsible business. 

Isabel McAllister

In conversation today

Isabel McAllister

Isabel McAllister Director of Sustainability

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