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Tuesday 16th March 2010
The Green Challenge - A Year on the Arque! Second instalment in our year-long journey...
Tracey Smith visits Arque Construction, for the second instalment in our year-long journey with the company, as it starts putting all of its planning into practice.

Bernard Keogh, Arque’s MD, is an amiable, forwardthinking boss who is very connected to his workforce.  After two decades of experience in construction management, he started the company to provide a personal, co-operative approach to building quality projects.  Bernard is determined to raise Arque to an even more environmentally efficient standard and was delighted to receive the Green Accord from Exeter City Council recently, in recognition of their early efforts.


A company's environmental performance can have a significant impact on its success, its bottom line and the customers it bags too.  ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard for Environmental ManagementSystems (EMS), which lays a framework for ways of working that combine pollution prevention and increased eco-efficiency on every level of operation.


Achieving the Environmental Management Standard (EMS) will need more than Bernard’s committed and solitary vision driving it. So he welcomes input from all of his staff. He explains, ‘We’re approaching EMS as a team. I spent critical, unhurried time during the planning phase to ensure we all made the right decisions on what we were doing to improve things long-term.’  The construction industry sends vast amounts of waste to landfill and Arque’s initial investigations flagged up the areas of waste management, along with transport, to work on first.


Bernard appointed Paul Bennett, Arque’s estimator and quantity surveyor to coordinate and collate information. Sue Keogh, the company secretary, was also drafted in for additional support. Despite having to fit the extra workload into their busy schedules, they seem to be taking to their new roles well and both share an upbeat approach to the problems it presents.  The majority of Arque employees work on-site. So one of the early tasks was uniting everyone and conveying the common purpose. This was simplified when the green team created 10 Golden Rules to abide by. They were compiled using EMS Easy, a set of simple guidelines laid out by Global Action Plan, the company’s environmental consultants. It uses simple visual tools like eco-mapping and helps companies to personalise the process and have a real ownership of ‘their’ EMS.


Upping the green game takes more than putting a few procedures in place. In good time attitudes change too. Wasteful bad habits are soon ditched and optimistic behaviour emerges, which can have a positive impact on everything, including the bottom line.


Global Action Plan has worked with over 60 major organisations and their employees on environmental behaviour change and Arque's advisor, Tom Kennard is delighted with Bernard’s steady approach.  ‘Environmental, financial, social and human capital all play key roles in long term sustainability, which should be the goal of any company,’ he said. ‘Arque will spend the next quarter implementing the systems they have designed so far on a practical level.’I ask Arque’s eco-advocate Paul Bennett how the nitty-gritty practicalities of the EMS are affecting staff morale back in the office. ‘It’s going very well,’ he says. ‘Actually, we’ve all been pleasantly surprised by how well the on-site staff have taken to things. During ‘tool box talk’, the guys were really positive.  To be honest, we thought they’d be the hardest ones to get on board. But I overheard colleagues talking at the printer the other day, one asking the other why he’d only printed on one side of the paper when it should have been double-sided’.  I wonder whether it has inspired Paul to live more sustainably at home. ‘No, not really,’ he replies, ‘I’ve been a green crusader there for a long time’.