Row breaks out over plan to name and shame firms with poor sustainability and safety performance

A row has broken out between contractors and Constructing Excellence over whether companies should be “named and shamed” for failing in key areas such as sustainability and health and safety.

In a move to drive forward industry reform, Dennis Lenard, chief executive of Constructing Excellence, has drawn up guidelines under which contractors would be graded from one to five on their performance in areas such as carbon emissions and waste disposal.

In response, contractors, including Bovis Lend Lease, have warned that the plan will be a barrier to reform.

The grading, which will be done by a team of independent research scientists, is intended to target the marketability of firms’ brands, and shows a much tougher approach to environmental performance.

Constructing Excellence aims to have its criteria for the five grades worked out by the beginning of September.

Lenard said sustainability was the “big ticket issue“. He said: “I’m extremely interested in ranking organisations according to the

way they are responding to the sustainability agenda. There’s heaps of good stuff on the Constructing Excellence website but whether anyone’s taking any notice of it is another thing.

“A team headed by BAA has asked the government to give us guidance – I don’t think that’s good enough. It’s got to come from within. If we don‘t do anything now nothing will be done for the next decade.”

Contractors question whether grading firms on these issues would have the desired effect.

I don’t know if ranking contractors is the way forward

John Spanswick, Bovis

John Spanswick, the chief executive of Bovis Europe, said he feared ranking contractors would make firms wary of sharing best practice in case they lost ground.

He said: “I don’t know if ranking contractors is the way forward. If they want to do that, then fine.

But we’re much more interested in sharing what we’re doing so best practice becomes more common.

We welcome any initiative to raise awareness of sustainability but what we don’t want to do is make firms defensive.”

Rick Willmott, Willmott Dixon’s chief executive, said contractors were necessarily constrained by what their clients required for each project.

He said: “If a customer has a distinct product that doesn’t fit the sustainability agenda then there’s not much we can do.”

Lenard added that he would be announcing by the end of July a hierarchy of the best 100 projects around the country so they could act as the exemplars on sustainability and safety.

  • The Construction Confederation has called on public sector clients to do more to help improve health and safety performance in construction, after a survey of large contractors revealed fewer than half of the respondents thought public sector clients considered it to be a very important factor when awarding contracts. More than one-third said post-completion health and safety reviews were never carried out.