The concept of Sustainable Development is well understood from a high level perspective but when applied to construction materials it is still in its infancy. For example, only relatively few construction materials or products are covered by product declarations displaying the materials environmental performance.
Our definition of a Sustainable material includes consideration of aspects such as transparency in the supply chain, local environmental impact during extraction, harvesting and manufacturing as well as the ability to reuse and recycle the product and materials at the end of life.
Many construction products and materials are globally traded and can have many links in a supply chain which often lacks transparency. Our focus on Sustainability of materials involves chain-of-custody considerations. Since 2008 we have endeavored to gain a better understanding of how to source sustainable timber and quarry products. This is a significant and complex challenge given our decentralized business model combined with the scale of our operations.
We use 3rd party certification systems where these exist and are credible (Forest Stewardship Council for example) and can provide appropriate volumes of timber. These certifications are seen as tools for increasing the use of verified sustainable materials. The bigger challenge is to totally eliminate the risk of illegally logged timber finding its way onto projects through our supply chain. This has become even more important given recent legislative developments such as the Lacey Act in the USA and the EU regulation on the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the European market. Further work is underway for 2011-2015. We interact with internal and external parties to better understand the practicalities of improving the use of sustainable materials and sustainability in our supply chain for a range of key materials.