Dutch water authority Scheldestromen supports sustainability with the CO2 Performance Ladder

The Dutch water authority Scheldestromen, located in the Province of Zeeland, has recently implemented that CO2 Performance Ladder as a procurement instrument. The manner in which the organization includes both internal as well as external stakeholders in its efforts towards sustainability, is innovative and effective. In this article, Scheldestromen shares its ambitions and motivations to make use of the procurement instrument to realize sustainable infrastructure.

Sustainability as an integral part of business

The tender in which the water authority implemented the CO2 Performance Ladder involved digging nature-friendly water banks and water courses. This project requires for a great deal of soil to be relocated by making use of machinery and fuel. For this reason, Scheldestromen sees plenty of opportunities to reduce the carbon emissions resulting from the project activities. In order to concretize these opportunities in the procurement trajectory, the water authority chose to implement the CO2 Performance Ladder as a procurement instrument. “The CO2 Performance Ladder is a proven instrument. The system is being applied on a national scale and many organizations are familiar with the Ladder. These are a few reasons why we opted to implement the Ladder in our procurement process”, says Evert Swart, program manager Sustainability at Scheldestromen.

Another reason for the implementation of the CO2 Performance Ladder as a procurement instrument is the ambition of Scheldestromen to achieve a 30 percent CO2 reduction in 2020 compared to 1990. Furthermore, the water authority has the goal to turn sustainability into an integral part of all the infrastructure projects they conduct. “It is a challenge to concretize sustainability in projects. We have certain criteria that are aligned with our sustainability goals, but we did not always see these criteria being applied in our projects. By implementing the Ladder, we expect to change these matters, because our contractors will become more intrinsically motivated to remain ambitious when it comes to reducing their carbon emissions. A certificate on the CO2 Performance Ladder shows that our contractors are serious about sustainability in their organizational policies.”

Working alongside the Dutch Province of Zeeland, the water authority aims to contribute to climate goals. For this collaboration, the Province of Zeeland decided to implement Dubocalc, an instrument developed by Rijkswaterstaat, the agency of the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. This instrument provides insights in the environmental effects of materials that are used in the infrastructure sector. At the same time, the water authority of Scheldestromen will implement the CO2 Performance Ladder and both government institutions will share their experiences on both instruments with each other.

Suitable for local businesses and SMEs (Small & Medium sized enterprises)

Before Scheldestromen decided to make use of the CO2 Performance Ladder as a procurement instrument, the water authority had a few questions to be answered. For this reason, Scheldestromen contacted the Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO) to inform both internal project leaders as well as local businesses and contractors on how the Ladder contributes to sustainability within projects. As the owner and administrator of the instrument, the independent foundation is a great source of information for both commissioning parties as well as contractors that aim to reduce their carbon emissions by using the Ladder.

Scheldestromen was willing to use the Ladder in their procurement trajectories, however, the system must adhere to certain conditions. “The CO2 Performance Ladder has not yet been widely used in the province of Zeeland. This is why it was important for us that local businesses and SMEs would not be excluded from our tender trajectories. We wanted to be sure that we did not set the bar too high for these businesses that were not yet familiar with the Ladder”, says Wilfred de Kam, senior project leader at the water authority of Scheldestromen. SKAO aims to maintain the accessibility of the CO2 Performance Ladder for organizations of different sizes. Based on research of SKAO, more than 60 percent of the organizations certified on the Ladder are in fact SMEs.

The management board of Scheldestromen became enthusiastic about the implementation of the CO2 Performance Ladder. With the signature of the Manifest for sustainable procurement and Green Deal sustainable infrastructure 2.0, the water authority made clear that it is striving towards sustainable infrastructure projects. For the procurement trajectory of their first project with the CO2 Performance Ladder, Scheldestromen wanted to provide all sorts of organizations with the opportunity to enter the tender. This is why the water authority did not diversify its award advantage based on the different CO2 Performance Ladder levels of the contractors. “We have awarded contractors on levels 3, 4 and 5 with the same amount of fictitious discount. We decided to do this, because we want to invite all contractors the procurement trajectory and a great deal of contractors are not yet certified on the CO2 Performance Ladder”, says De Kam.

“We don’t want these local businesses to fall behind by awarding bigger organizations with an enormous discount when they achieved higher levels of the CO2 Performance Ladder. That is why we decided not to diversify the award advantage based on acquired levels on the Ladder. However, this situation is temporary. In time, we will evaluate our decisions and reward the frontrunners for their efforts in sustainability. Once we made use of the CO2 Performance Ladder as a procurement instrument, we noticed that more organizations are willing to obtain a certificate on the Ladder.” Scheldestromen claims to implement the CO2 Performance Ladder in all big procurement trajectories with plenty of opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions.

An example to other commissioning parties

In order to succeed in reducing CO2 emissions, Scheldestromen listens to the signals that they received from their essential markets. These signals come from local businesses that do not have experience with the Ladder and companies that need to be ensured how to embed sustainability in their daily work. The water authority wants to work with both large organizations as well as SMEs and challenge these organizations to strengthen their ambitions towards CO2 reduction. In order to do this, Scheldestromen consulted local businesses about the possibility to use the CO2 Performance Ladder. Furthermore, the water authority formed a clear policy to achieve their sustainability goals and communicated this policy with other essential stakeholders. Scheldestromen also included internal project leaders in the decision making of implementing the Ladder in procurement processes. These steps have led to more support from within the organization to work towards sustainable infrastructure.

“We realize that cost savings and energy savings go hand in hand. That is why we expect that when contractors save their energy and fuel consumption, their entries to our procurement trajectories will be lower in cost. Next to the CO2 reduction measures, we are actively seeking for more ways to reduce the nuisance in the environment, caused by our projects and activities. We want to provide our contractors with the opportunity to decide for themselves what it means to work sustainably. This is why the Ladder is aligned with our ambitions”, says Swart. “Before the Ladder, our projects included sustainable measures, but with the Ladder, we are equipped to broaden our view on sustainability and also work towards durability of our projects. What does sustainability mean in the future? In order to answer this question, one needs to take concrete steps and that is exactly what we are working on.”