Net zero: why procurement and supply chains are great enablers   

October 25, 2022

By Jonathan Harry, procurement director, Tarmac 

The creation of new assets has always sat at the heart of the construction sector, with the supply chain being the delivery vehicle for the products and services required. However, in recent years there has been an increasing focus on what else the supply chain can do and how it can add more value to the client, supplier and the environment. This new creativity and innovation are key drivers helping to propel the industry forward at a time when change and pace are particularly critical. 

At Tarmac there is a business-wide focus on sustainable innovation and solutions which help customers and clients deliver better outcomes for both the built environment and wider society. It’s important to remember that we are not alone in this ambition. Harnessing the best ideas and thoughts from across our supply chain is supporting our innovation momentum and procurement is a key enabler in this activity.  

While some will still hold an outdated view that procurement teams are solely focused on transactional processes and purely metric and numbers driven, the reality is that the function thrives on relationships but also has a clear long-term focus on delivering wider ranging value for organisations. 

Great procurement can be a key strategic driver of long-term outcomes like decarbonisation which should be mutually beneficial to an organisation, its customers, suppliers and wider society. Procurement teams, particularly within businesses of scale, are often uniquely placed to look up and out beyond their sector. They can drive collaboration with suppliers and unlock the innovation that in the infrastructure market may sometimes sit further down the supply chain.  

Against the backdrop of a climate emergency, the transition to net zero and its delivery requires greater innovation as well as collaborative and behavioural change on a scale than we have not ever experienced before. It also requires an improved appreciation of what effective supply chains and progressive procurement can achieve together.  

Tarmac’s annual Supplier Sustainability Week (kicking off on 7 November) is a prime example of how forward-thinking suppliers and progressive procurement teams can collaborate and develop joint solutions to drive the decarbonisation agenda.  

A clear illustration of this approach delivering results is the Tarmac Decarbonisation Club, created at our inaugural event in 2021. Today, the Club comprises 16 suppliers and its focus is firmly on developing practical and deliverable solutions to implement across construction and infrastructure projects.       

To date, 120 recommendations have been generated and 60% of these ideas use technology that is either currently available or will be within the next two years. The recommendations have been mapped and judged against three main criteria – cost, timescales to implement and potential carbon savings – to help Tarmac and partners understand projects which can deliver environmental change.  

How we define value is key to unlocking the net zero opportunity, but also the challenges that we are collectively facing with high input costs such as energy. What is clear is that we cannot and should not define value as the lowest cost option for short-term gain. The challenge in a climate emergency is to create the conditions to deliver the best overall value to an organisation, as well as improved social and environmental outcomes for wider society. 

For more information about Tarmac’s Supplier Sustainability Week, click here.