When it comes to most industrial activities, the bulk of any environmental damage is caused by the supply chain. So, for sustainable construction to become a more mainstream concept, it is essential for contractors to examine not just their own green credentials, but those of their suppliers and subcontractors.
In today’s competitive global market, the differentiation strategies required to participate in public sector infrastructure projects lie not only in a contractor’s capacity to achieve the client’s expectations, but also in its ability to meet new sustainability requirements. This additional criterion puts pressure on shareholders of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects.
Well-tested, cost-effective construction techniques along with latest digital design tools and data processing technologies can enable contractors to meet the necessary standards of quality, within budget and on schedule. But without the responsible management of the supply chain, the desirable sustainability objectives may not be achieved.
Committing to green
Acciona put in place a Global Sustainability Strategy in 2010, as part of its company strategy to contribute actively to social wellbeing and sustainable development.
This strategy is focused on optimum design and durability of infrastructure, mitigation of climate change and provision of solutions concerning water stress, and it is currently developed through the Sustainability Master Plan 2020, a road map that brings together all of the company’s initiatives in this area with the clear objective of contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
...The differentiation strategies required to participate in public sector infrastructure projects lie not only in a contractor’s capacity to achieve the client’s expectations, but also in its ability to meet new sustainability requirements.
The company has implemented strategic and operative objectives for all of its current infrastructure, industrial and water projects in the UAE, for example the Jebel Ali desalination plant, to respond to the main challenges for sustainable development.
With the aim of identifying, mitigating and managing risk specifically within the supply chain, Acciona has an internal risk management mechanism that is essentially structured over three elements: The supply chain risk map, the supplier certification and evaluation procedure and the corporate procurement standard.
The supply chain risk map helps to identify and mitigate operational, political or economic risks, and creates greater efficiency in risk control, while also conveying a company’s sustainability criteria and policies.
The supplier certification and evaluation procedure involves a full analysis of the suppliers, assessing factors such as corporate responsibility position, solvency or legal position, among others, as highlighted in figure 1.
The Procur-e platform used by Acciona is an electronic procurement tool to support management of the supply chain through its two functions: supplier portal and bidding tool. This ensures fair competence, confidentiality and transparency of the procurement process as all suppliers are given equal access to the shared information, highlighted in figure 2.
The mandatory ‘self-declaration of responsibility’ for company suppliers and subcontractors, the ‘ethical principles for suppliers, contractors and partner’, and the audits, evaluations and ‘no-go policies’ allow the detection at an early bidding stage of those subcontractors that do not meet the minimum requirements to achieve the sustainability objectives.
Room for improvement
New technologies and software for supply chain management (SCM) are available to assist with real-time monitoring of the entire chain, including shipping and invoicing, encouraging a transparent supply chain performance.
However, there is still room for improvement in the highly competitive market of international logistics, where large investments in innovative digital business models are currently being introduced by the new players.
Contractors cannot deliver the required global transformation on their own. A priority on sustainability issues has to be established by the project owner in order to allow for the fair selection of the best contractor, in a process that is not based on the lowest-price criteria.
This could also be a great opportunity for the government and public sector to drive a significantly change in the way that large infrastructure projects are undertaken, as well as the chance to upskill the industry to meet a growing demand for sustainability.
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