New contract clause aims to tackle greenwashing in construction

Construction contract provider NEC is introducing a method of holding firms to account over their carbon-reduction promises amid fears about greenwashing.

The organisation – part of the Institution of Civil Engineers – announced plans to add the X29 clause to its NEC4 suite of legal agreements for use on projects.

NEC4 contract board member Ian Heaphy said the clause would “formalise standards” and “make it a legal obligation for parties to deliver impact”.

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority expressed concern after discovering that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading.

NEC said the construction sector had seen a rise in “unsubstantiated and questionable” net-zero carbon claims.

Simon Wyatt, sustainability partner at engineering consultancy Cundall, told CN in 2020 about a steady stream of net-zero carbon building claims being made with “little or no justification”.

Heaphy said there was a “growing view” that contract conditions could be applied to support the reduction of carbon emissions in built assets.

“We feel a contract approach can help to formalise standards within the industry and create a level playing field for greater accountability,” he said.

“The new secondary option will enable the incentivisation of net zero and make it a legal obligation for parties to deliver impact.”

The clause will initially be released for consultation, he added, with a call for feedback.

Heaphy will join Stacey Collins, major projects partner and climate change specialist at law firm Pinsent Masons, in hosting a webinar on 6 April to discuss the secondary option consultation.

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