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John Sisk targets carbon neutrality as it seeks to build on sustainability success

Builder plans to make 50% of its fleet electric by 2024 as part of sustainability roadmap

John Sisk & Son ‘wants to achieve zero avoidable waste and eliminate single-use plastics by 2023’.

John Sisk & Son ‘wants to achieve zero avoidable waste and eliminate single-use plastics by 2023’.


Last year, building contractor John Sisk & Son set out its sustainability roadmap for the rest of the decade. Based on the three pillars of people, planet and performance, the “Building today, caring for tomorrow” strategy sets out a range of challenging targets linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which will be subject to independent verification.

“It’s a very ambitious roadmap with 21 separate targets,” says Sisk head of sustainability for Ireland and Europe Sinéad Hickey. “We now have to ensure that each one is properly managed and operationalised across the organisation. They need to be embedded across the organisation from board level down. My experience over the years of organisations that succeed in this area is that leadership and accountability at board level are essential. Board and CEO oversight is critical to bring the roadmap to life.”

That top-level engagement is baked into the strategy, she points out. “Each board member, all eight of them, sponsors a sustainability working group. These groups address different areas such as climate change, equality diversity and inclusion, electric vehicles, social value and so on. And each group is responsible for a target. One of the primary responsibilities of the board members is to support the groups in achieving those targets.”

21 targets

The 21 targets address five different themes, Hickey explains. “The targets are dynamic and will evolve and change over time, but the pillars and themes will remain the same.”

The themes cover responsible business practices; enhancing communities; embracing innovation and digital technologies; tackling climate change and air pollution; and caring for the environment.

One of the ambitions set out in the roadmap is to have targets in line with the international Science Based Targets Initiative (Sbti). Sisk has joined more than 1,000 businesses which are working with Sbti to reduce their emissions in line with climate science. The company also supports Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees, the UN initiative aimed at limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“We are not just looking inside our own four walls,” Hickey adds. “We are looking all along the supply chain and the complete value chain as well. We also want to get Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) accreditation. This is an international organisation that helps companies disclose their environmental impact. We want to achieve a CDP A rating for climate change. Our current rating is B-minus and the industry average for construction is C. We are already ahead of curve, but we have more work to do.”

One of company’s most ambitious targets is to achieve carbon neutral status without the need for offsetting by 2030. “We want to achieve this right across the whole value chain and in our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.” That means direct emissions from the organisation itself, indirect emissions from electricity purchased by the organisation, and all other emissions which arise from its activities.


“Construction and the built environment account for 39 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions,” she adds. “By 2024, 50 per cent of our fleet will be electric vehicles. All internal combustion engine vehicles will be eliminated from the fleet by 2030. We have also made a commitment to plant 1.5 million trees of natural woodland in Ireland, the UK and Europe and we are supporting the restoration of peat bogs. We want to achieve zero avoidable waste and eliminate single-use plastics by 2023. We also want to embed circular economy principles into the business.”

And carbon is just part of the picture. “People’s understanding of sustainability can vary. What do you think responsible business means? It’s how an organisation measures and manages its overall impact on society. It’s great to support charities and NGOs and so on but you also have to think about social and economic value of contribution to communities through things like apprenticeships and the supply chain. You have to look at all these things and bring them together. That’s why the UN Sustainable Development Goals are reflected in our targets.”