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Understanding BES 6001 responsible sourcing certification

A critical part of achieving sustainability in the construction industry is the
widespread adoption of circular economy principles, says Rob Firman.

WE can reduce the demand for natural resources and materials by creating the conditions where products are capable of being reused or remanufactured, extending their life across multiple projects rather than being disposed of after just one project.

Implementing circular economic principles is a long-term goal, as the linear economy is very much prevalent. Constructing and maintaining the built environment consumes many natural resources, and the pressure on those resources is substantial. As global populations get bigger and more urbanised, that pressure will only continue to increase.

The usefulness of BES 6001 certification
The environmental and sustainability standard BES 6001 was developed by the BRE and provides a framework for assessing the responsible sourcing of products. The standard was originally developed specifically for construction products, which is the focus of this article, but has gone on to be adapted for, and used by, other industries.

While there might be a perception that a manufacturer or organisation is certified under BES 6001, it’s actually specific products that carry the certification. Manufacturers might therefore offer some products with BES 6001 certification, and others without.

Clear communication about what is and isn’t certified is therefore essential to avoid confusion.

With greater demand and pressure on sources of raw materials comes the increasing need to procure those materials responsibly. Natural resources and raw materials are obtained from all over the globe, including from locations and communities that do not enjoy the protection we would hope or expect. People can be at risk of exploitation or harm when responsible sourcing is not taken seriously.

For the UK construction industry, including roofing, having confidence in the products that are being specified and installed means going beyond just the product manufacturer. By offering responsible sourcing certification, a manufacturer shows they understand their supply chain and know the origin of their raw materials. This is part of a more sustainable approach to material sourcing and use.

A benefit of BES 6001 certification is that it typically allows projects to claim more credits in voluntary schemes like BREEAM or LEED. Beyond that, however, responsible sourcing has taken on a deeper and more fundamental importance.

Responsible manufacturers and organisations have ethical business practices, of which transparency is a core part, and they are seeking to measure themselves against available benchmarks.

Measuring responsible sourcing
BES 6001 assessment and certification is carried out by an independent third party. The requirements set out by the standard cover three different areas, two of which relate to the manufacturer’s management practices and the third relating to the provenance of the materials used in the product manufacture.

Organisational management
This deals with how the company’s operation, starting with having a responsible sourcing policy, and demonstrating local, national, and international legal compliance. Management systems must be in place for quality and managing suppliers.

Supply chain management
This looks at material traceability, such as through ISO 9001 certification, or an alternative chain of custody scheme. It also covers environmental management systems (such as those certified to ISO 14001), and documented systems for health and safety management.

Management of sustainable development
This looks at various social, economic, and environmental factors, and requires manufacturers to demonstrate that they have policies and targets in place for each; report results against their targets; and have their performance assessed by third parties.

Energy and resource use, waste management, greenhouse gas emissions, ecotoxicity and water abstraction all fall within managing sustainable development, alongside life cycle assessment, transport impacts and business ethics.

While responsible sourcing has potential international impacts, BES 6001 also places value on social impact on the local scale. ‘Management of sustainable development’ also covers employment and skills, and engagement with the local community.

This reflects a much wider range of positive impacts from specifying responsibly sourced construction products than is often expected or imagined.

Find out more, and download the BES 6001 certificate for Polyfoam XPS’s extruded polystyrene floor insulation online.
Rob Firman is technical and specification manager, Polyfoam

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