Building carbon reduction into transport procurement processes - New CIHT report identifies eight areas where transport can improve

15th Nov 2023

One of CIHT’s key priorities is to reduce carbon emissions from highways, transportation and infrastructure sector activity. An area where there is considerable untapped opportunity is in the procurement of highways, transport infrastructure and services.

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CIHT have today released a new report, ‘Building carbon reduction into procurement processes’ that collates current best practice and outlines key recommendations that will have a real impact on the sector.

Sue Percy CBE, Chief Executive, CIHT said:
“Procurement requirements have a huge influence on how works are delivered on the ground, and the outcomes achieved from associated spend. In our new report, CIHT has examined the current landscape around carbon reduction through procurement and makes recommendations that will enhance current practices in the sector.”

“This review sought to understand the existing policy, guidance, and contractual mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions from highways and transport activity, gauge current levels of awareness and use of existing processes, and identify areas of success and where further development is needed.”

About the report

This report has been produced with support from CIHT’s Partnership Network. 

'Building carbon reduction into procurement processes' includes an overview of current UK policy and legislation for carbon reduction, a collation of public procurement notes and industry standards for managing carbon, best practices from other countries including the Netherlands, Sweden and Australia and insights from industry leaders. 

The review has identified and sought to addresses many challenges in the procurement process, including the crucial role that policy and legislation have in: driving adoption of robust carbon reduction approaches, limitations imposed through the way contracts are structured, how culture and behaviours can strategically position procurement for effective carbon reductions and the role of leadership in providing clarity of vision and strategic direction for carbon reduction. 

CIHT has identified eight main areas where we are making recommendations in the report:

  1. Funding mechanism: Consideration by government is needed to provide longer-term funding, and mandating carbon reduction through procurement.
  2. Policy and legislation: Existing, strong policy needs to be consistently accepted and used across the sector. Stronger legislation is needed to support this.
  3. Cultural and behavioural changes are needed within the sector to create the environment that will allow for the necessary modal shift to speed up the pace of change.
  4. Leadership: Effective leadership at all levels – within government, within the sector, and within individual client organisations, suppliers, and contractors – is required to drive the changes and provide clarity of direction and vision.
  5. Contractual: The spirit of the NEC suite should be the bedrock of the sector’s culture.
  6. Whole-life carbon: Procurement should be positioned as strategic and given a voice at the outset. Carbon requirements should be embedded within procurement, with a WLC management approach.
  7. Carbon measurement: Agreed common standards and methodologies are required for measuring carbon value and for carbon management in procurement.
  8. Knowledge and training: There is a need for provision and development of affordable and accessible training, for all sections and levels of the sector, to enable growth in awareness and knowledge and a standardised approach to carbon in procurement – developing consideration of carbon into decision making as the norm.

The team behind the report

The project group was chaired by Mike O’Dowd-Jones, Strategic Commissioner for Highways and Transport Services, Somerset Council and David Ogden, Executive Director Asset & Maintenance Solutions, Colas Ltd with representatives from across the CIHT Partnership Network.

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