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CO2 Performance Ladder charms both contractors and awarding authorities

Published on 06/07/2021
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CO2 Performance Ladder charms both contractors and awarding authorities

In the context of the European climate objectives, the Belgian construction sector is continuously looking for ways to reduce general CO2 emissions. An instrument that can play a crucial role in this in the (near) future is the CO2 Performance Ladder, a management system currently being tested in our country that encourages certified companies to structurally reduce their CO2 footprint. The many positive reactions show that this innovative concept can count on a lot of interest from both awarding authorities and contractors.

The idea behind the CO2 Performance Ladder is as simple as it is genius. Contractors who reduce their CO2 footprint receive a CO2 Aware Certificate, which gives them a notional discount in public tenders. “Energy savings, the efficient use of materials, and green energy are advantages that enable construction companies to ascend one or more levels (from 1 to 5). The higher up the CO2 Performance Ladder, the greater the notional discount”, says Kim De Jonghe of COPRO. “At the moment, 25 pilot projects – ten in Flanders, ten in Wallonia and five in Brussels – are being used to determine whether or not the system has a future in our country. They will run until 2022 and 2023. Afterwards, it will be decided whether and how the CO2 Performance Ladder will be implemented in Belgium.”

Success story in the Netherlands

The COPRO and VlaWeBo webinar aimed to introduce the general construction public to the CO2 Performance Ladder and to share ‘good practices’. Since the concept has already been causing a furore among our northern neighbours for ten years and is now well established in public tenders, Tijmen de Groot of the Dutch Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (S.K.A.O.) opened the debates. “The CO2 Performance Ladder is a true success story in the Netherlands. More than a thousand certificates have already been issued to approximately 3,500 Dutch organisations, with the construction and infrastructure sector as the absolute frontrunner. Remarkably: the majority of certificate holders are small companies. The CO2 Performance Ladder is therefore certainly not only suitable for large companies”.

Not only are Dutch contractors enthusiastic; more than 150 awarding authorities structurally use the CO2 Performance Ladder with a view to CO2 reduction. “They are fans because the instrument is ready to use and because it is based on ‘rewarding and challenging’ instead of punishing. Academic studies show that the number of certified organisations grows strongly after governments and other awarding authorities decide to structurally include the CO2 Performance Ladder in tenders. This shows that it is a very powerful tool for achieving a more sustainable way of working.”

Reward instead of punishment

After this general introduction, Kim De Jonghe, lead auditor and Certification Manager of the CO2 Performance Ladder at COPRO, explained the requirements organisations must meet in order to obtain a CO2 Aware Certificate. The certification process was also explained in detail. Dirk Van Troyen of the Flemish Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV) then explained how the Flemish government views the CO2 Performance Ladder. “In our view, the advantages of the CO2 Performance Ladder are that you mobilise an entire sector (approximately 3500 companies!). It rewards parties who are committed to the cause. Moreover, it is also a user-friendly instrument for governments. It involves little extra work, the burden of proof lies with the tenderer, and the verification is done by certifying bodies. The CO2 Performance Ladder offers a clear, unambiguous framework for companies that want to take action. It is perfectly feasible to obtain a level 3 certificate within a year, so the entry threshold is certainly not too high.”

The effects of the CO2 Performance Ladder don’t disappoint, emphasises Van Troyen. “In the Netherlands, certified companies record a 3.2% CO2 reduction per year, which is good for a doubling of the general average. Each 1 million euros of contract value results in an extra reduction of 10 tonnes of CO2. On the other hand, the increase in the effective award amount is negligible (less than 0.1%), so the additional cost for the government is minimal. Total system costs are only 7 to 10 euros per extra tonne of CO2 reduction. That’s not too bad when you consider that the social cost of CO2 emissions is 25 to 129 euros per tonne!”

Very useful exercise

The last speaker at the webinar was Franky Van den Berghe, sustainability manager at Willemen Groep. He shared his experiences about the recent implementation of the CO2 Performance Ladder at Willemen Infra. “We deliberately opted for entry level 3, with the intention of first getting our own operations in order and only then focusing on the rest of the chain. Mapping our energy flows was a very useful exercise. At Willemen Infra, the share of asphalt plants represents more than 50% of the entire CO2 footprint. That is where the effect of the measures will be greatest.”

For the period 2020-2022, Willemen Infra is committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 10% compared to emissions in reference year 2019. “We received our CO2 Aware Certificate from COPRO at the beginning of this year. The awarding advantage based on a notional discount is very interesting, as is the reduction of our energy costs through the implementation of the CO2 reduction measures. Finally, the certificate also benefits the image of our organisation, especially with regard to ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. In any case, we’re very happy that we took the plunge!”

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