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Greenwashing in construction (and how to be aware of it).

June 8, 2022

Sustainability and building compliance expert. Specialising in low energy design, SAP, SBEM, BREEAM, and air testing for the construction industry,

Andrew Sadler



Keen to commit to greener construction? Here’s everything you need to know about greenwashing in construction.

With the UK pushing to reach Net-Zero by 2030 and companies seeking success with their green credentials, it’s no surprise that Greenwashing is a topic that has awakened companies from across the construction industry. In 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) discovered that 40% of green claims made online from companies could be misleading, particularly the construction sector, where it has been seen to make questionable net zero carbon claims in the last few years. For example, the CMA found that many companies were using vague claims and unclear language such as ‘eco’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural products’ without actually explaining what it means. Some were even hiding information from customers, hiding product pollution levels to make their products seem more eco-friendly. 

This discovery has alerted NEC, a construction contract provider, introducing ‘Clause X29’, a method that will hold companies to account within the construction industry over their carbon-reduction promises. In this blog, we will discuss exactly what greenwashing is and how the new ‘Clause X29’ method could impact your business.

What is greenwashing (and why is it bad)?

As stated by Leyla Acaroglu, the Founder of unschools.co, disrupdesign.co & coproject.co and UNEP Champion of the Earth “Greenwashing is to corporations as tree hugging is to individuals who say they care about the environment, it’s a symbolic reference that has little outcomes And more so just confuses the issue attempting to be resolved”.

Typically, Greenwashing is when a company states that they are environmentally conscious, however the end result is a completely different story and they are not actually making any notable sustainability efforts. Although it could be said that companies who greenwash have good intentions, it can’t be ignored how many companies are actually ploughing all of their money into marketing their products/services as green rather than actually taking the time to create amazing products/services that actually are environmentally friendly. 

This can be so frustrating, especially for customers who are putting all of their trust and belief into brands, believing that they are actually purchasing a product that is helping them to do their bit and be a little kinder to the environment. It can also hurt your brand’s reputation. Lying and exaggerating your sustainability credentials can lead to scepticism, uncertainty and mistrust with your customers.

What is greenwashing in construction?

So we now know what greenwashing is and how it can affect businesses; but how does it differ for the construction industry? Construction greenwashing involves overpromising or misleading with information that your products/services have beneficial green effects. 

Examples include vague claims and unclear language which involves companies plastering language such as ‘eco’, ‘sustainable’, ‘non toxic’ and ‘natural materials’ across their marketing materials, but failure to actually explain what they mean and how it affects the customer and the service. In addition, a few companies are failing to fully explain their services and products, with product pollution levels being missed out of descriptions to make their products seem more eco-friendly.

Another area to look out for is own brand eco logos that are not accredited by a professional body. In reality, there’s only a few products available in the UK that carry environmental certification and all the best labels are operated by third parties which are limited in the UK. However, they are easy to recognise so if anything looks unusual, it’s best to get this checked. 

What is the new NEC X29 clause and how does it relate to sustainable construction?

NEC has announced that they have launched ‘Clause X29’ to its NEC4 suite of contracts to help tackle greenwashing within the construction industry. Until now, sustainability goals for companies have only been considered a ‘technical issue’, however it is now hoped that the Clause X29 will support and incentivise carbon reduction initiatives within the industry which will be measured through tangible sustainability and net zero commitments as well as greater accountability and transparency between clients in future projects which we think is fantastic and a step in the right direction for employers who want to take their sustainable contribution seriously. 

What can you do to tackle greenwashing in the construction industry?

It might seem simple, but to tackle greenwashing within the construction industry, the first step is to implement green, sustainable practices within your construction. 

First things first: the 7 principles of sustainable construction helps the industry and yourself to understand where we are as contributors to carbon emission, allowing the industry to work towards creating greener building developers. There’s multiple areas that you can consider when implementing sustainable practices into your business such as sustainable design, energy efficiency, waste reduction, indoor air quality, materials and much more!

As stated previously, it’s easy to talk the talk, but are you actually walking the walk? As you begin to investigate sustainable construction, you need to make sure you are following standards and legislations which will not only have your back, but also provide you with accreditation and support if you are ever questioned on your sustainability efforts. Legislations and standards include Future Homes Standard, Building Regulations: Part L, Net Zero 2050 and SAP 10 regulations

It’s also essential that you get the correct testing completed on your properties to ensure your work is sustainable, that you are being truthful to your clients and it also allows you to pinpoint where needs improving. From Air Tightness Tests to BREEAM, there’s loads to consider and we can help you here at BuildPass to decide which ones are best for you and complete the test for you!

For more information on all of the above, check out our Complete Guide to Sustainable Construction.

Another option could be to take our CPD in Sustainable Construction. If you are looking to broaden your knowledge in sustainable construction, the CPD is unparalleled when it comes to boosting confidence, expanding offerings, maintaining safety standards, enhancing team morale and most importantly, your knowledge around sustainable construction! Courses such as this will help you to fully understand sustainable construction, help you to professionally implement it into your business and tackle the worry of greenwashing.

Can Buildpass help me with greener construction?

Yes! Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We have a range of services that have been created to help businesses and people like you to achieve green construction. From the planning stage to designing and building, we have services available such as Daylight Calculations and Thermal Bridging which will help you to deliver low energy, zero carbon, green construction projects that are simple and cost effective!

If this sounds like something you would like to find out more about, book in for a Sustainability Consultation with one of our consultants! (It’s absolutely free) We can’t wait to hear from you soon and help you on your journey to green construction. 

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