Firm makes carbon savings in UK but is dragged down by increases in carbon from work overseas

Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty has fallen short of its carbon emissions target for 2012 because the environmental performance of the business in Europe and Asia has lagged behind the UK.

The industry giant had pledged to reduce emissions to 38.5 tonnes of CO2 per £1m of revenue by 2012 but in its 2012 sustainability report, published this week, it only delivered 41 tonnes per £1m of revenue.

This was a small reduction on the 42.8 tonnes of CO2 per £1m of revenue it reported in 2010, when it set the target.

The UK business reduced its emissions per £1m of revenue by 30 % but emissions from operations in Europe, North American and the rest of the world all rose.

The report also revealed that the firm still has a long way to go to achieve its target of an overall carbon emissions reduction of at least a 20% from 2010 levels by 2015 as between 2010 and 2012 its total emissions reduced by just 1%.

Chris Whitehead, group head of sustainability at Balfour Beatty, said: “The problem for the construction business is that the emissions are driven by turnover. So, even though we have done a lot in terms of our estate and better vehicles in our fleet that doesn’t change the fact that we have won some nice contracts in Hong Kong and in the US and they are holding the consumption up.”

He added that a lot of the work Balfour Beatty had won in Hong Kong was tunnelling work, which he said had high carbon emissions that were very difficult to mitigate.

However, the firm also reported a dramatic fall in the amount of waste sent to landfill which went from 909,543 tonnes in 2010 to 476,250 tonnes in 2012. The fall was mainly driven by the UK which cut waste to landfill from 603,328 tonnes to 157,110 tonnes over the period.

The group also reported a small fall in water consumption from 260m3 per £1m of revenue to 241m3.

Balfour Beatty also reported on the recommendations of its Next Generation Stakeholder Panel, a group of people under 25 from inside and outside Balfour Beatty, which highlighted shortcomings in using sustainable materials across the business and reducing emissions from staff travel.

The firm said the market for sustainable materials was not well developed outside the EU and it would be promoting personal carbon foot printing as part of its sustainability month in2013 and reporting on the results.