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CSR: Carbon Social Responsibility

Sourcing building materials locally can improve both carbon and corporate social responsibility

Submitted by: Martin Brown

Posted: Sep 14, 2011 – 09:05 PM EST

Tags: csr, corporate social responsiblity, green building, environment, sustainability, carbon footprint


By Martin Brown

Monitoring carbon is a key corporate social responsibility issue. Carbon management and reduction, particularly within the built environment, construction and facilities management sector should be seen not only within sustainability/environmental terms but as a lens to understanding wider CSR impact. 

In 'Taking stock of your company's social impact', part of the Guardian Sustainable Business series, Alison Braybrooks makes the comment:

"If you gave a leading CEO two minutes to tell you about their company's record on the environment, they'd probably give you a few insightful statistics on water, carbon and waste management that would let you know they were focused on the issues that matter and were making progress." 

I am not so sure whether this applies to construction or facilities management CEOs or not. You would probably be hard stretched to find a CEO who has that information available without calling down to the environmental, HR or safety departments, although I do agree with...

"Now ask them their about their impact on society and you'll probably still get their donations budget and the number of employees who volunteer – not the interesting and relevant stuff on the difference they've made to their local communities, or how they've been part of solving a big social problem.

As with all environmental issues that need effective management like carbon, waste and water, companies must get (CSR) specific."

One of the powerful benefits emerging from the use of ConstructCO2 (that may eclipse its use as a construction carbon calculator) is as a CSR indicator, and specifically the impact on localism and appropriate resourcing.  

In this sector, which traditionally by nature and by contract has been geographically widespread and transient, travel and transport of materials, operatives, managers and waste are the biggest contributors to operational carbon emissions. Mapping a project's geo supply footprint visually tells us so much about the CSR impact.

Lower transport and travel CO2 emissions for a project demonstrates a tighter, more effective project CO2 and CSR footprint, along with all the benefits of localism. This makes issues such as procurement, appropriate sourcing (and of course specification) key elements not only in any carbon management strategy but also in any CSR strategy. 

Back in 2006, Professor Keith Alexander and I started a ball rolling with a Community Based Facilities Management (CbFM) paper that explored FM within the context of its local and wider community. Some five years later I question how many FM organisations really understand the 'ripple' impact on their community, CSR or indeed on the environment, let alone being able to provide 'specific' insights. Again the monitoring of travel and transport carbon emissions, mapped as a visual geo footprint, can tell us much about the FM CSR impact.

Is it time then for those in the built environment sector to wider their vision and canvas of CSR? And, in addition to 'doing good' aspects of CSR being seen as the only CSR indicators, give consideration to travel and transport carbon management as an indictor of a more specific CSR impact on local communities?

(A background presentation to this article, delivered to the GreenBuild Expo in Manchester can be found on my slideshare pages.)

About Martin Brown

Martin Brown is an advocate for change and improvement in the fields of sustainability, collaborative working and social media. Through his Route to Zero program, Martin facilitates organizations setting strategies for sustainability and a low carbon future. His blog, Fairsnape, covers built environment news, views and comments. He can also be found on Twitter @fairsnape.

Readers: Martin asked it, is it time to broaden traditional CSR to include 'carbon' social responsibility? Tell us on Talkback!

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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