Greening the supply chain

Oct 15, 2014


The author is Curt Garrigan, Coordinator, United Nations Environment Programme, Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI)


Much attention has been placed worldwide on improving the energy efficiency of buildings.  Indeed, led by many stakeholders including governments, local authorities, green building councils, industry and others, significant progress has been made in developing the policies and practices which have resulted in better performing buildings.  Moreover, pathways are being established which envision zero or even positive energy buildings – at a scale which will contribute to significant climate change mitigation efforts. 

These achievements are significant, and highlight the collective impact of organizations working at all levels, from grass roots to international collaboration.  While there is still much more to do to realize the full potential for greater energy efficiency, these efforts and activities of organizations, especially the World Green Building Council and its network of national green building councils, are raising awareness globally of the need to improve the performance of buildings and reduce building-related GHG emissions.

Such efforts also provide models for addressing far-reaching, global objectives to reduce resource consumption from buildings and construction.  In addition to the energy consumed and GHG emissions generated by buildings in operation, the construction sector has an enormous resource impact, responsible for large percentages of water and material consumption and solid waste to landfills.  To address this broad resource impact, and to transition to more greater resource efficiency in the building sector will require similar engagement of a broad range of stakeholders, from contractors to regulators, and from green building councils to material suppliers. 

UN Member States adopted at Rio 20 in 2012 the 10-Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), under which Sustainable Buildings and Construction is a priority theme.  To carry out this global mandate, a multi-stakeholder programme on sustainable building and construction is being developed to help guide governments and industry to realize more sustainable patterns of consumption and production in the sector. 

To support the 10YFP and to provide a basis for promoting greater resource efficiency in the sector, UNEP’s Sustainable Building and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI) recently published “Greening the Building Supply Chain.” This timely report evolved from the work of a UNEP-SBCI Task Force established in 2012 to identify opportunities for achieving greater resource efficiency in building sector supply chains. The Task Force, led by UNEP-SBCI partner SKANSKA, and including organizations such as the World Green Building Council, mapped the stakeholders and activities at each stage of the supply chain to better understand the demands and impacts the building sector creates for construction materials, logistics and transport, packaging, and waste management, among others aspects of resource efficiency.

The Greening the Building Supply Chain report identifies opportunities and barriers at each stage of the supply chain; interdependencies of the building construction process; investigated options for improving the building delivery and management process; and introduces an “Intensity Analysis Methodology” which recognizes indicative resource intensities in major material families. The report presents potential “green interventions” for various stages of the construction supply chain, it identifies areas needing additional research, increased promotion and facilitation of tool adoption, and opportunities for more cooperation and collaboration with the diverse range of stakeholders that call the building sector home.

With the European Commission having recently published its ‘Communication on Resource Efficiency Opportunities in the Building Sector’, setting out plans to move forward on this agenda, we hope that this report is a valuable addition to the wider debate this gives rise to. Developing greater efficiencies throughout the entire construction sector-- in water, waste, and materials, in addition to energy and carbon—will require stronger partnerships and collaborations to help raise awareness and develop the policies and best practices necessary to reduce overall environmental impact.  Through collective actions, we can achieve a more sustainable building sector.


Download the report, here:

UNEP-SBCI, is a partnership of major public and private sector stakeholders in the building sector and actively works to promote sustainable building policies and practices worldwide. Learn more about UNEP-SBCI and become a partner today by visiting:


The author alone is responsible for the views expressed in the publication and they do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of the United Nations Environment Programme.  

Category: General

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