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Construction lagging on Scope 3 emissions

Construction lagging on Scope 3 emissions

Mobilityways, a carbon analysis consultant,  published its 48-page Road to Net Zero Study last month, with findings from a nine-month investigation of large UK organisations’ progress in addressing decarbonisation in their operations and supply chains.

It has followed this up with a comparative study* exploring the emissions reduction progress of the UK’s tier one construction contractors and found that the sector is trailing other industries.

Of the construction firms questioned, 54% were collecting Scope 3 emissions numbers by the end of 2023. This compared poorly with both the financial services and the healthcare sector where 71% of organisations with more than 1,000 employees had started Scope 3 emissions reporting. Yet indirect Scope 3 emissions – which include emissions down the supply chain – are often reckoned to be responsible for more than 70% of a typical firm’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Of those who had begun Scope 3 emissions data gathering, there is still a lag. Only 41% of that 54%  had worked out a way of measuring greenhouse gas emissions from employee commutes to their place of work.

By contrast, in the UK financial services sector, 54% of companies have worked out a method of capturing employee commute emissions data as part of their Scope 3 emissions reporting. Employee commute is one of 15 categories of ‘indirect’ Scope 3 emissions which need to be collected and reported on. Yet full Scope 3 reporting disclosure is already supposedly required for contractors wishing to tender for UK public sector contracts worth over £5m.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) also recently published its own Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap update. This report showed that the construction industry had fallen short on many of its emission reduction targets over the last five years and was on track to achieve only a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050.

The UKGBC report found that the construction industry only managed a 4% drop in ‘embodied carbon’ over the 2018 to 2022 period, as against a target of 17%. Embodied emissions are those linked to the production and transport of building materials, as well as to actual construction, maintenance and finally ‘end of life’ building demolition. This shortfall contributed considerably to the industry reducing overall its emissions by just 13%, as against a total carbon reduction target of 19% over the five year period.

Mobilityways managing director Julie Furnell said: “One of the problems in the construction sector is that the lines between Scope 1 and 2, often called ‘direct’ emissions, and Scope 3 ‘indirect’ emissions become blurred in the built environment where the key emissions demarcations fall between ‘operational carbon’, focused on the emissions consumed to run a building in terms of energy used for heat, air conditioning and powering buildings in full use; and ‘embodied carbon’ which is much more about building materials and the construction process itself.”

The UKGBC confirms the industry’s Scope 3 reporting problem and has recently closed an industry consultation seeking feedback on new guidance setting out proposals for how embodied carbon data can be included within Scope 3 reporting for built environment organisations.

The new guidance aims to establish a link between Scope 3 reporting and embodied carbon assessments, supporting strategic emissions reduction efforts. It also builds on UKGBC’s Guide to Scope 3 Reporting in Commercial Real Estate. The guidance outlines how developers, contractors, owners, occupiers, investors, and facilities managers can include embodied carbon data in their Scope 3 reporting.

A UKGBC spokesperson confirmed: “Despite being a significant source of carbon emissions in the UK, embodied carbon emissions are currently unregulated, and measurement and mitigation within construction is typically voluntary. As highlighted in our Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, the accurate and consistent measurement and reporting of embodied carbon has become increasingly important to ensure meaningful and credible progress towards net zero carbon goals.”

* Road to Net Zero Study: Construction Sector Focus

Mobilityways’ full 48-page Road to Net Zero Study can now be downloaded from

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