The CO2 Performance Ladder stimulates sustainable construction

The construction sector is able to reduce carbon emissions with, among other things, the reuse of building materials and more efficient machinery.

Sustainable development made possible by the CO2 Performance Ladder

The trend of sustainable development is somewhat under the radar. This certainly applies to people outside the construction sector. The revolution is barely visible for non-insiders, while the sector is fully committed to using smarter materials, more efficient machines, reusing materials and logistical improvements. Making sustainability in road construction and hydraulic engineering is therefore a priority of construction companies.

This development is made possible by a tool, which was developed in 2009 by Dutch railway enterprise ProRail and named the CO2 Performance ladder. A bull’s eye, it now appears with advancing insight. Meanwhile, not only companies in the construction sector, but also Rijkswaterstaat, about 20 municipalities and almost all Dutch provinces and various network companies make use of the CO2 Performance Ladder. The number of companies in the construction sector now stands at over 900, but is growing steadily.

“The CO2 Performance Ladder appears to be extremely effective in its application. This allows you as a company, government or organisation to achieve CO2 reductions practically and quickly. The Ladder has become the sustainability instrument of the Netherlands”, says Annemiek Lauwerijssen, manager of the Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO). Although the CO2 Performance Ladder was developed by ProRail, the Ladder has been owned and managed by this independent foundation since 2011.

A management system rather than a prescription

What makes use of the CO2 Performance Ladder special is that as a user, you do not have to bend towards strict regulations, but that the sustainability instrument leaves room for your own creativity and CO2 reduction ambitions. The CO2 Performance Ladder is therefore much more of a management system than a mandatory requirement. The strength of the CO2 Performance Ladder is that it puts companies to work on the basis of their own insight and possibilities, to show their ambition and to take measures that also have an effect on the implementation of projects.

“For an average organisation with only a few people even, the system can already be applied. The Ladder consists of five different levels. Up to and including level three, the organisation focuses on its own emissions. From levels four and five, a company also takes a look at its efforts in relation to the carbon emissions of the total chain”, says Lauwerijssen. The manager adds that the first three levels of the Ladder can certainly be obtained by organisations with no experience on the matter. In addition, small organisations are granted exemptions for certain requirements.

The CO2 Performance Ladder 3.1

It is important to note that the CO2 Performance Ladder is constantly updated. The version 3.0 was released on the 10th of June 2015, while the latest version 3.1 is being developed and expected to be ready in 2020.

Version 3.1 of the Ladder focuses on efficient administration, more impact on projects and alignment with international standards. SKAO is carrying out this update along with stakeholders, the central body of experts, where, among other things, a number of requirements at levels four and five have been rewritten. Companies are thereby asked to develop a clear strategy and to take steps themselves to reduce emissions in the chain.

In addition, the CO2 Performance Ladder does not remain at stating high ambitions. Research from the University of Utrecht has shown that the companies that are certified take about forty percent more reduction measures and actually reduce more carbon emissions. Moreover, these measures appear to have an effect on the rest of the chain: suppliers of materials respond to this by offering, for example, low carbon concrete or energy efficient elevators.

CO2 reduction, socially relevant

The question that finally remains is what the Ladder yields for you as a company. CO2 reduction is socially relevant, but what exactly do you get in return? Lauwerijssen: &l