The framing of a sustainable development goals assessment in decarbonizing the construction industry – Avoiding “Greenwashing”
Journal article, 2020
The aim of this paper is to contribute to the establishment of a robust framework for the assessment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in businesses, using the construction industry as an example and with the primary focus on combating climate change (SDG 13). We provide a critical analysis of a selection of relatively widely used SDG impact assessment tools, combined with a case study from the construction industry to explore how a meaningful SDG assessment can be framed with linkages between SDG 13 and other related SDGs. Our analysis points towards the importance of framing SDG assessments in a way that discourages “Greenwashing”. Any SDG assessment that relates to climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement should identify the processes and activities that can be expected to be particularly challenging in terms of their abatement. In our road construction work case, we identify four such hard-to-abate activities: 1) introducing biomass for renewable transportation fuels for use in construction equipment and heavy transport; 2) electrification of transport and industrial processes; 3) substitution as part of transitioning from fossil fuel use; and 4) applying carbon capture and storage technologies in the production of basic materials, such as cement and steel. The approach applied will avoid that businesses only focus on SDGs in situations where they are already performing well or can apply low-cost measures or that they only relate to the part of the supply chain that pertains to their own business (Scope 1 emissions). For an SDG assessment to provide basis for informed decisions regarding real change towards more sustainable and equitable corporate practices it should: (i) identify and include concrete measures to align with the terms of the Paris Agreement; (ii) include relevant value chains; and (iii) consider both the short-term and long-term effects of strategic choices.
Sustainable development goals