Australia is like many other nations in that its leaders and decision-makers are collectively investigating how to decrease emissions.

Focusing on the construction industry could result in meaningful progress, but people must first realize some emissions are more challenging to curb than others.


Scope 3 Emissions the Most Difficult to Control

Emissions fall into three categories:

  • Scope 1 Emissions: The business’s actions and ownership are directly responsible for these greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Scope 2 Emissions: These include indirect emissions from activities where the company does not control or own the sources, such as those related to the electricity used during construction.
  • Scope 3 Emissions: This scopes emissions link to a construction firm’s value chain and a completed structure’s use but not the organization itself, including those connected to suppliers or raw materials.

Australia’s government aims to reduce carbon emissions to 43% less than 2005 levels by 2030. Construction brands will play important roles in helping the country reach that goal.


How Have Construction Companies Addressed Scope 3 Emissions?

Scope 3 emissions comprise more than 70% of some enterprises’ carbon footprints. It is hardest for construction companies to control these emissions, but not impossible.

Lena Hök is the executive vice president at Swedish construction firm Skanska. She said its Scope 3 emissions from 2021 were 85 times higher than its Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Another complication is calculations of the Scope 3 emissions associated with a building’s occupants sometimes cover five decades of use.

However, Skanska began tracking its Scope 3 emissions in 2020. It had achieved a 13.2% reduction within two years, which Hök said became partly possible because the business developed internal software to track construction materials’ embodied carbon. Similar efforts will be useful in Australia, particularly since the government will mandate emissions disclosures in 2024.

In another instance, construction company Laing O’Rourke began requiring low-carbon concrete for all its United Kingdom projects as of April 2023. This change should bring an approximate 28% carbon reduction compared to conventional concrete.


How Can Construction Companies Make More Progress?

Sometimes, the answer is not to make the biggest changes immediately but to focus on smaller actions that create good habits. Any climate-conscious person can reduce their emissions by turning off appliances. Besides saving energy, this decision makes electrical fires less likely. However, this is a beneficial choice, but it does not address Scope 3 emissions.

Addressing Scope 3 emissions requires becoming more familiar with the supply chain and what is involved in getting goods from their origins to their destinations. So, going back to the appliances example, a person could cut Scope 3 emissions by purchasing products closer to home or repairing a broken one instead of buying a new model.

Considering the scope of materials purchased by construction enterprises, industry leaders can make progress by prioritizing recycled materials instead of new ones. Shortening supply chain routes could also cause the necessary changes.

However, Scope 3 emissions go beyond the supply chain and include business travel. When construction decision-makers must meet to discuss projects, doing so through a teleconference platform instead of gathering in person is a practical way to cut Scope 3 emissions.

Construction waste encompasses Scope 3 emissions, too. Using materials for future projects instead of discarding them reduces brands’ carbon footprints.

Alternatively, many construction projects involve home upgrades. When residents have no further uses for materials, furniture or other things left over after the improvements, construction workers could consider donating what is still in good condition and safe to use. Then, things typically considered waste get reused instead.


Creating an Action Plan

Since Scope 3 emissions are the most challenging to reduce, people must allow enough time to identify and pursue the most strategic options. Those will vary based on a construction company’s budget, workforce size, current carbon footprint and more. However, deciding how to achieve stated goals is the best way to increase the likelihood of achieving those milestones.


By Jane Marsh, Editor in Chief at