Costain Group plc is one of the biggest construction and engineering companies in the world, with revenue in 2017 of £1.728 billion and over 4,000 employees. Through a strategic partnership developed by the Business School, innovative tools have been created to help businesses reduce their carbon emissions.

Damien Canning

When Damien Canning (pictured) graduated from the Business School with his MSc in Carbon Management in 2013, he headed straight for a career in industry. “It’s a bit of a strange one,” he says. “A lot of people who generally do that programme have aspirations to go and work for the United Nations, writing policy, that kind of thing so it was quite unusual for me to go to work for a corporation.

“But what you are learning on the programme is so advanced that you are in a good position to be able to influence and really drive change.”

It was lucky that when he joined Costain, the company was working on a construction project in Scotland (the electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh rail line) which brought him back to Edinburgh. It was also good fortune that he worked for Tim Embley, Group Innovation and Knowledge Manager at Costain, whose remit was to develop partnerships with universities.

If you can demonstrate financial benefits in reducing carbon – then obviously that helps a lot.
Damien Canning

The combination of these factors brought about the strategic partnership between Costain and the Business School, with a particular focus on developing a ‘carbon calculator’ to help the construction industry.

The three-year Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Tool project, or CITT for short, began in 2016, led by the Business School’s Centre for Business and Climate Change and funded by the Construction Climate Challenge (an initiative hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment).

“We worked out that we could develop a tool that would take the estimating data from a project and crunch it together with carbon data so that you can very quickly get an insight into exactly where the hotspots are,” Damien explains. “You also get the cost data as well which is critically important for changing hearts and minds at the board level of any organisation. If you can demonstrate financial benefits in reducing carbon – then obviously that helps a lot.”

The upshot of the research conducted by Costain in collaboration with the School is the creation of an automated, integrated, baseline tool, which can be used by contractors for aligning their supply chain towards low-carbon outcomes.

“Without understanding where your carbon is and what point in the value chain that carbon is going to come into a project, the chances are you are only ever going to get a reduction by chance,” he says. “And that’s not really going to get us the step change that we need in terms of carbon management in the built environment.”

At the end of the three years, the web-based carbon calculator will be released and made open access so anyone in the industry around the world can use it.

For Damien, apart from the obvious benefits of the CITT, the partnership with the School is delivering very real benefits for Costain. “There’s a recognition that we get some top-quality research and insight,” he explains. “Also the people that we’re able to bring into the business are pretty exceptional.”

Find Out More

If your organisation is interested in finding out more about working in partnership with the Business School, please get in touch with the Partnership Development Team.

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