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Low-carbon means clients challenging themselves and supplier chains

Making the step-change from discussing to actually delivering low carbon is being made by an increasing number of large infrastructure client organisations – but not all.

Organisations that already measure and reduce their capital and operational carbon will have recognised a number of the key messages and practical recommendations in the Treasury’s Infrastructure Carbon Review, launched in November last year.

The evidence from the review is clear: client organisations need to take the lead in demanding carbon reductions from their supply chains and in return be responsive to the opportunities they offer.

In 2006 as part of our long-term strategy, we made the link between carbon, raw materials and cost in capital schemes we were delivering.

With this link in mind, and with Ofwat requiring water companies to measure and report capital and operational carbon in five-year business plans, our carbon journey commenced.

Board level down

Having established a process for measuring and reporting capital and operational carbon, our first step at board level was to agree challenging carbon goals to create the focus and behaviours within our own organisation and our supply chain to deliver low-carbon low-cost solutions.

The goals we have are backed up by a governance process where the carbon emissions of solutions put forward are challenged on three separate occasions prior to construction commencing on site.

“This is an example of a client taking the lead in challenging the supply chain to reduce carbon emissions”

This is an important leadership principle, with clear goals portraying the board’s vision backed by a policy of intervention and challenge to individual design teams and engineers.

This is not a short-term initiative within Anglian Water, and we have now announced new carbon goals, including reducing capital carbon by 60 per cent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline.

Turning point

The step-change within our organisation came when our supply chain started to prove the concept of low-carbon solutions, delivering business efficiency in design and construction of infrastructure assets. 

Traditionally we installed water mains through an open cut technique of excavating a trench, laying the main and reinstating the trench. Our focus was on the pipe supplier to reduce carbon emissions and cost in the product being supplied.

Through our modelling and measurement of capital carbon, we recognised that for a small diameter pipe, more than 80 per cent of the carbon emissions were associated with excavating and re-instating the trench in a road.

Prior to 2010, less than 10 per cent of our water mains were installed through no-dig techniques, compared with more than 70 per cent today.

The avoidance of digging trenches for small-diameter mains has not only reduced carbon, but also reduced the use of finite materials and reduced cost.

This is an example of a client taking the lead in challenging the supply chain to reduce carbon emissions.

As the Infrastructure Carbon Review says: “The greatest benefit comes from joining up the value chain, with the client taking the lead in defining low-carbon targets and being responsive to the opportunities that are offered.

“That’s what leads to positive sustainable outcomes.”

Chris Newsome is asset management director at Anglian Water and chair of the Green Construction Board’s Infrastructure Working Group

Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference

Register today for the ICR One-Year-On conference, which will explain the business and commercial benefits across the industry of embracing the principles of the review.

The conference takes place on Monday 27 October 2014 from 09:50 to 13:00 at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Conference Centre.

To register your interest in attending this free event, email

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