Industry Insights – September 2021: Rebuilding Confidence in Construction

By Jen Heil | September 30, 2021

Welcome to the September 2021 edition of SG’s Industry Insights. As Q3 comes to a close and the end of 2021 appears on the horizon, we’re celebrating the publication of the Code for Construction Product Information, exploring the implications of the newly introduced Green Claims Code, and examining the impact of the current materials shortage on construction activity.

Spotlight on the new Code for Construction Product Information: A framework for integrity 

Developed as a direct response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) will help organisations “drive higher standards in the presentation of construction product information, prioritising building safety”. Following an industry wide consultation over the summer, the CCPI was formally published on 21st September and has been widely welcomed across the sector. 

The code consists of 11 clauses, which product manufacturers who sign up will agree to abide by. These clauses are designed to ensure that product information – in any format – meets five ‘acid tests’, outlining that for product and performance information to be trusted it must be: 

  • Clear  
  • Accurate
  • Up-to-date
  • Accessible 
  • Unambiguous 

A newly established not-for-profit organisation, Construction Product Information Ltd, under independent governance and management, will oversee implementation of the code. Currently in its pilot phase, it is hoped that the code will be widely adopted by product manufacturers. The code will provide assurance that users of product information have the necessary facts when making decisions about specifying or installing their verified products, with the aim that clients, specifiers and users will insist on only working with CCPI compliant products. 

It is also anticipated that implementation of the CCPI will foster a culture of ethical leadership, rebuilding trust in the industry with the public and external stakeholders. The code will ensure robust, independent verification processes and support the industry to futureproof against anticipated regulatory requirements. 

In signing up to the code, organisations will undertake an online assessment to validate their leadership and culture and overall commitment to the ethos of the CCPI. They will then be required to submit evidence and information to support the organisation’s compliance to the eleven clauses of the CCPI, which will be assessed and independently verified to establish if they meet the required standards. When the organisation’s brand/or product sets successfully completes the verification processes, a numbered, time-limited licenced mark will be awarded to demonstrate that the ‘Product Information’ provided by that company is CCPI compliant. The initial licence will be valid for up to two years, after which they will need to be reverified.  

If there are changes to how Product Information is managed for verified product sets, and/or actual or potential product safety issues, there will be a requirement to inform the CCPI. Depending on the significance of the change, there may be a need to re-verify the product/set, which could result in an additional charge. 

There will likely be teething issues with the administration of such an ambitious scheme, especially when rolled out at a greater scale, but there is no doubt that the code offers a hugely beneficial framework for product manufacturers to adhere to. The CCPI is a vital component in rebuilding trust in the industry and we warmly welcome its publication.

You can register interest in signing up to the code here. 

Green Claims Code aims to put an end to greenwashing 

Greenwashing has become a significant issue across almost every sector, with companies playing on consumers increasing desire for sustainable products by overselling green credentials for products and services. But the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is calling time on such practices, with the introduction of the Green Claims Code. Issuing a deadline of the end of this year for companies to ensure their marketing claims fall in line with the new code. 

In November 2020, the CMA launched an investigation into the veracity of commercial claims to sustainability and green credentials, which, alongside The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) 2020 online sweep, found that 40% of green claims could be misleading. The tactics employed by companies in this manner, which may put them in breach of consumer law, include: 

  • Vague claims and unclear language such as terms like ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’, or references to ‘natural products’, without adequate explanation or evidence. 
  • Own brand eco logos and labels not associated with an accredited organisation. 
  • Hiding or omitting certain information, such as a product’s pollution levels, to appear more eco-friendly. 

With the significant role of the built environment in delivering sustainable development and meeting climate goals, avoiding these kinds of practices is essential. Construction product manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure any green claims are made with integrity. The Green Claims Code aligns beautifully with the CCPI, outlined previously, and lays out six requirements that green claims must meet: 

  1. Be truthful and accurate: Businesses must live up to the claims they make about their products, services, brands and activities 
  2. Be clear and unambiguous: The meaning that a consumer is likely to take from a product’s messaging and the credentials of that product should match 
  3. Not omit or hide important information: Claims must not prevent someone from making an informed choice because of the information they leave out 
  4. Only make fair and meaningful comparisons: Any products compared should meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose 
  5. Consider the full life cycle of the product: When making claims, businesses must consider the total impact of a product or service. Claims can be misleading where they don’t reflect the overall impact or where they focus on one aspect of it but not another
  6. Be substantiated: Businesses should be able to back up their claims with robust, credible and up to date evidence 

As with the CCPI, adhering to the Green Claims Code will be essential in building trust with stakeholders, maintaining a positive reputation and meeting organisational responsibilities.  

You can read more about the Green Claims Code here. 

How material shortages continue to create challenges for construction 

Material shortages that began to bite in 2020 continue to be exacerbated by current driver shortages in the UK. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have highlighted the “pressing concern” this is having on the supply chain, significantly extending lead times and causing delayed deliveries in all construction product areas. 

Materials most significantly affected include timber, steel, roof tiles, cement and electrical components, with lead times in some areas as long as 24-30 weeks. As a result of longer lead times and increased demand, prices have increased significantly over the course of the year and the CLC anticipate that prices will not begin to stabilise until 2022. In addition, the construction industry is also experiencing a record high number of vacancies, leading to some concern that this ‘perfect storm’ of challenges could begin to have a notable impact on the UK economy. 

Despite all of this, Glenigan’s latest Construction Review points to an increase in major project starts and main contract awards. The review also notes that some areas that have been in steady decline over recent months, such as underlying project starts, are now beginning to stabilise. There are undoubtedly challenges ahead but, as ever, the industry continues to demonstrate resilience and adaptability. 

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