CO2 Performance Ladder: Cut Emissions, Save Costs and Win Business

co2 performance ladder

Reducing your company’s CO2 emissions is not optional, especially if you operate in the EU. The CO2 Performance Ladder is a tool that helps companies in improving their environmental and business performance. In this interview, Brian Heikamp, Project Manager at The Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business, explains the tool and the benefits of using it.

What is The Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business and how are you involved in the CO2 Performance Ladder, in short?

Brian-HeikampThe foundation stimulates and facilitates effective dialogue between companies, governments and social organizations about environmental-friendly entrepreneurship that is aimed at CO2 reduction. The foundation is owner of the CO2 Performance Ladder; a sustainability tool that helps companies reduce their CO2 emissions. Every day, the CO2 Performance Ladder proves its value to an increasing number of industries. Our foundation is responsible for its use, the development and the certification scheme. I am the manager for marketing and communications.

Why is it essential for construction industry companies to actively reduce their carbon footprint?

The construction industry has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions through the use of energy and carbon intense materials. That’s why this industry can make a huge impact on national climate targets. Research shows that construction companies certified for the CO2 Performance Ladder achieve an annual 3.2 percent reduction in CO2.  Very remarkable, given how the national average has CO2 emissions actually increasing. Because of the ladder, company awareness about CO2 reduction has increased 2.5 fold.

What is the CO2 Performance Ladder and what makes it special?

The higher the step or the level on the certificate, the more advantages enjoyed by the company during the award decision.

The CO2 Performance Ladder is a management system that encourages companies to cut their own CO2 emissions. The ladder has five levels. A company can reach the next level through incremental improvements in its existing process, and through innovations in technologies and methods. The position of a  company on the CO2 Performance Ladder is determined by the highest level on which the company  meets all requirements.

A great thing about the CO2 Performance Ladder is that a company will gain financial benefits from procuring bodies who use the ladder for awarding tenders. The higher the level of the company on the CO2-Performance Ladder (as in, the more it works towards CO2-reductions), the higher the award advantage. So in this case, being sustainable is profitable. Procuring bodies give up to 10% award advantage in multi-million euro projects.

There are various ways to do this. For example, a more economical use of fuel, a more efficient way of using materials or by procuring green energy. A company  then shares this knowledge with other companies. That’s how companies show a drive for innovation – and not just in their own business, but across the entire chain. More than 2400 companies have a certificate for the CO2 performance ladder and this number is growing fast.

How can a construction industry company benefit from using it; can you mention any examples?

Implementing ‘the ladder’ has a big effect on business operations. The award advantage can be huge. Strukton, a big rail company from the Netherands, reduced its CO2 by one fifth down to some 13.000 tonnes per years since 2003 . All their lease cars have received a downgrade in size. The company also distributed train tickets to their lease drivers, with the amount of train related kilometres per year still increasing. One special measure is the self-signalling short-circuit lance, which uses an app to turn the rail on and off from a distance. This saves costs and is much safer. CO2 reducing measures tend to also be cost reducing, acting as an added incentive. Other measures include green energy, large machines and the recycling of materials/ballast. Using multiple smaller machines to work on the rail results in 35% more CO2 output than using large maintenance machines.

Construction companies work with many suppliers and subcontractors. How can the CO2 Performance Ladder be used in such an environment?

From level 4 a large a company has demonstrable insight into the most material emissions such as purchased materials and fuels, and they are able to present at least two analyses of these scope 3 emissions or value chains of activities. This way companies are stimulated to know their own CO2 emissions and that in the value chain.

What is the process of using the Ladder; do companies have to hire consultants to do it?

The CO2 performance ladder requires that a company arranges a structured process leading to continuous improvement of CO2 reduction. This process is furnished in a plan do check act cycle. All the requirements of the CO2 Performance Ladder are written in a handbook.


If a company already understands it’s energy streams this saves time during deployment. If not, they can hire an consultant to help them. Initially most companies try to climb to level 3 of the ladder. With the help of an environment manager who is experienced with management systems such as ISO 90001 a company can get a level 3 certificate within 4 months. In addition a close involvement of other individuals in the organization is expected.

When the implementation is finished a certification body will review the management system of the company.

Can you say a few words about certification?

A certification body will carry out an assessment to see if a company meets it’s requirements.

After three years, the company will have to complete once again that compliance with the requirements of the CO2 performance ladder.

How long does it take for a medium-sized company to get certified?

In three to four months it is possible to get a certificate. The company’s starting position has much influence on the effort required to implement the Co2 Performance Ladder. For example, if a company is already working on energy reduction and it understands it’s energy consumption this will save time during the implementation.

Some procuring clients in the Netherlands are using the CO2 Performance Ladder. Can you explain what they are using it for?

There are more than 50 procurement clients in the Netherlands that use the ladder for tenders. This way the want to stimulate their suppliers to reduce its CO2 emissions. The amount of procurement clients that use the ladder is growing steadily. Next to national procuring bodies including ProRail (Dutch national railway network) and Rijkswaterstaat (government agency for infrastructure), various municipalities, water boards and provinces have used the tool as well. Presently, procurement bodies are aware of the large role they can fulfill in stimulating a clean economy. They notice that the ladder stimulates CO2 and chain management with their contractors, where the tool provides for concrete sustainability ambitions.   

Where can our readers learn more about the CO2 Performance Ladder?

You can visit our website

Insight, reduction, transparency and participation. The four words form the centre of the CO2Performance Ladder.

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