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The core role of sustainability in the built environment

28th July, 2021

Davy Horizons Senior Sustainability Manager, Ellie Walshe, joined Lynn Lambe and Tiffany Quinn of Little Lambe Marketing Consultancy and Generate Leads on their Site Talk podcast to discuss the core concepts of sustainability in the built environment. They discussed how implementing a credible sustainability plan as well as working to best practice, can be a unique differentiator to drive future contract wins.

Compliance is key

If a company is not compliant with environmental regulation and policy they risk being exposed to fines, reputational damage and being excluded from public and private tenders. Environmental policy and legislation in the built environment has moved towards sophisticated sustainability targets. This includes Ireland's ambition to be Net Zero by 2050 which means reducing emissions by 51% by 2030. This will bring many opportunities and revenue streams over the coming years, e.g., retrofitting alone will bring thousands of jobs over the next 10 years. 


Can’t manage what you don’t measure

For small to medium-sized businesses, or for companies who are just starting on their sustainability journey, measuring consumables such as electricity, water, gas, and fuel and setting yearly reduction targets will see almost immediate environmental and financial benefit. With time, these reduction targets can be brought in under a company-wide Environmental Management System which can eventually be accredited to ISO 14001. In Ireland, organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and the SEAI have grants available for companies who want to cut down on energy costs or who want to implement energy saving targets.



If a company decides to align their brand with the sustainability agenda, they need to be credible and transparent by delivering and reporting on their sustainability targets and ambitions. Claiming to have sustainability credentials without a credible sustainability team and strategy, can result in companies “greenwashing”. It is now a popular term, with greater awareness “greenwashing” is becoming easier to spot. However, for companies that are aligning themselves with world-class sustainability initiatives and telling a good story, sustainability can be used as a powerful marketing tool.


The waterfall effect

The expectation placed on PLC and privately owned companies to report on sustainability is high, and the same level of pressure is being passed through their supply chain. This can come from sources including government, media, investors, consumers, and local communities. This is sometimes described as the ‘waterfall effect’ in that it is not just major clients feeling the heat to improve across environmental and social responsibilities, but it is being passed on to their contractors. The pressures are being passed on in the form of compliance with supplier codes of conduct, as well as measuring and reporting of sustainability performance.


Profitability and purpose

When building a sustainability strategy, there is a need to tie it in with the companies practices and strategy. Davy Horizons work with companies to build holistic sustainability strategies that manage material environmental and social risks and opportunities and help implement them. This ranges from developing environmental reporting toolkits to measure and reduce baseline performance through to developing Environmental Management Systems accredited to ISO 14001 and applying and verifying Science Based Targets.


Learn more about Davy Horizons

Listen to Ellie Walshe on the Site Talk Construction Podcast

Listen to Ellie Walshe on the Site Talk Construction Podcast

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