Responsible resourcing should be an integral part of every project

An independently verifiable procurement process will make us more accountable for the products we supply, specify or use

Earlier this year one of our architects, James Goodfellow, took part in a panel seminar at EcoBuild to discuss responsible sourcing, a topic which is quite rightly creeping up the agenda of many architects and is something we at Make are very focused on, especially for our 5 Broadgate project on behalf of British Land. (see James’ earlier blog post)

It requires the holistic examination of the product and the supply chain so that one is fully conscious of whether they meet environmental, social and economic requirements; from extraction, through processing and supply, right to the specification and ultimate re-use or disposal of the product.

There is no doubt that truly responsible sourcing can be a minefield. Essentially it requires the entire procurement process to be verifiable through independent sources, much like you find with FSC timber or fairtrade. The publication of the BES-6001 standard promotes responsible sourcing and provides clear guidance on the framework and governance that is required to ensure that the environmental and social aspects are addressed.

Likewise in the manufacturing process, the wellbeing of employees and the release of pollutants has to be considered. These issues are further compounded by long supply chains; the complexities for smaller enterprises in trying to meet assessment criteria and perhaps most importantly of all, creating standards that are internationally acknowledged.

A number of architects, suppliers and contractors are already leading the march on responsible sourcing, and there is increasing pressure from clients, the government and indeed the consumer public, for all of us to demand traceability and be more accountable for the products we supply, specify and use.

Responsible sourcing is something that should be embedded into the design process from the offset and the fact that BRE and British Standards have developed their own frameworks for governance can only be applauded.  But we should continue to demand that more products, and their associated supply chains are evaluated to meet these standards, for as Sarah Cary, sustainable development executive at British Land, said at the EcoBuild responsible sourcing seminar: “There’s nothing like a horsemeat scandal to get us all interested in where things come from.”  We all have a duty to be accountable for the product and its procurement to determine whether it is acceptable.  Frankly it is time responsible sourcing became an integral part of every construction project and procurement process.

Originally posted on Ken Shuttleworth's Building magazine column. 
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