CO2 Performance Ladder crosses the border: Belgium now working with the management system

In the coming years, Belgian governments will experiment in their tenders with the CO2 Performance Ladder. Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels will take part in the experiments with the CO2 management system. When the results of the pilot phase turn out to be positive, then the Ladder will become the norm for Belgian governments.

The Belgian CO2Logic, a consultancy agency in the field of sustainability, has recently conducted intensive research into the implementation of the CO2 Performance Ladder in Belgium. This research was commissioned by ADEB-VBA, organisational representative of the 65 largest construction companies in Belgium. Didier Cartage, general manager of ADEB-VBA: “We are convinced that the construction sector must take its responsibility in terms of sustainability and CO2 reduction. The CO2 Performance Ladder is a wonderful system to get started with, both in the construction sector as well as other sectors. Its function and results has also been proven in The Netherlands. Why should we then reinvent the wheel in Belgium?”

ADEB-VBA therefore called in CO2Logic in 2016 for a tour with interested parties, such as construction companies and governments, to see whether there was a need for the CO2 Performance Ladder in Belgium.

Room for creativity

The results of the initial investigation were positive. Not surprising, according to Jan Janssen, project leader at CO2Logic. “The tool offers entrepreneurs room for creativity; they can decide for themselves how they want to reduce their CO2 footprint. That catches on. Companies are therefore much more prosperous to get started with CO2 reduction”, he says. “In The Netherlands, the CO2 Performance Ladder also shows very positive results; certified companies achieve twice as much CO2 reduction on average compared to companies not certified on the Ladder.”

“Ultimately we are heading towards a situation where CO2 reduction becomes mandatory, but we are not there yet”, he continues. “That is why the CO2 Performance Ladder is an excellent tool to accelerate CO2 reduction in the meantime.”

All governments participate on the CO2 Performance Ladder

Before actually experimenting with a Belgian version of the CO2 Performance Ladder, a plan had to be put on the table. Different working groups therefore investigated different areas of attention. For example, can the Dutch version of the CO2 Performance Ladder be directly taken over in Belgium or are adjustments necessary? And does the tool comply with Belgian legislation and regulations? “We have thoroughly investigated this”, says Janssen. “We successfully completed these investigations in the fall of last year. We then presented our plan to the various ministers whose approval we required in order to get started.”

Many signatures later, a green light was given for the pilot phase with Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels on board. A special and important achievement, says Janssen: “Of course you don’t want every Belgian government to develop or use its own CO2 reduction tool; that is an impossible situation for companies. With all Belgian authorities on board, the sector is assured of one uniform tool for CO2 reduction. And, of course, we hope that the federal government will join, once it has been formed.”

Starting with the pilot phase

Before the federal government of Belgium can join, there is a lot of experimentation during the pilot phase. Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels will jointly launch 24 tenders in the coming years, whereby companies with a certificate on the CO2 Performance Ladder will benefit from an award advantage. In The Netherlands, the same principle is applied for the Ladder in tenders. In order to ensure that Dutch companies do not have a head start on Belgian companies in these tenders, initially only level 3 of the Ladder is requested. “In principle, you can acquire the certificate for level 3 of the CO2 Performance Ladder within a year”, Janssen explains. “But for level 4 or 5, companies often need a little more time. It should not, of course, be that Dutch companies have a competitive advantage within Belgian tenders only because they have been working on the Ladder for a longer time.”

Small entrepreneurs are also taken into account, Janssen continues: “It is easier for large companies to get certified (quickly) on the CO2 Performance Ladder. Small entrepreneurs have fewer resources and therefore need more time for the certification process. That is why the pilot projects have a minimum value of 5.5 million euros, so that they are only relevant for large companies. Tenders of this size are too large for small entrepreneurs.” Once the CO2 Performance Ladder has passed the pilot phase, small entrepreneurs have had enough time to get certified.

CO2 reduction in Belgium

Currently, only a handful of Belgian companies have obtained a certificate on the CO2 Performance Ladder to compete with Dutch tenders. However, Janssen is convinced that it will be the norm for Belgium. “The pilot phase is more to do with putting the finishing touches. I see no reason why it would not work as well in Belgium as well as it does in The Netherlands.” Cartage agrees: “The fact that all three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, ed.) support the CO2 Performance Ladder is a very hopeful sign.”

According to Janssen, the CO2 Performance Ladder also fits in perfectly with a broader trend that is currently taking place in Belgium. Sustainability is becoming increasingly prominent on the agenda, both among governments as well as businesses. “Ten years ago, Belgium may have lagged behind, but we are now at full speed”, he concludes. “We notice it within our own organisation; In the past year, CO2Logic had to hire three extra employees to meet all demands for advice and assistance in the field of sustainability and CO2 reduction. The subject is becoming increasingly important and it will only accelerate in the coming years.”