Imane Ketrane, Sustainability and Energy Analyst, Longevity Partners, edited by Carson Smith, Sustainability & Energy Consultant, Longevity Partners

Responsible Sourcing of Construction Materials – Guidance for Third Party Green Building Certifications

Also called “ethical sourcing,” responsible sourcing is a voluntary commitment by companies to consider the social and environmental impacts of their supply chains and relationships with vendors[1].  

Responsible sourcing has become a natural extension of commitments to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and is an important component of a robust business model. It is especially prevalent across production-intensive industries such as fashion, food, cosmetics, and architectural/engineering/construction (AEC). In the building sector, prioritizing responsible sourcing of building materials provides benefits to the environment, the supply chain, and the Principal Contractor[2] – aligning with the main pillars of sustainable development: people, planet, and profits[3].   

Enhancing ethical labor practices alongside the health and safety of people represent the main social benefits. Responsible sourcing also helps protect the environment through reduction of waste and increased resource efficiency. These two aspects of responsible sourcing also come with financial benefits –they help drive more profit by enhancing the company’s reputation and maintaining its business integrity.    


Responsible sourcing: an integral part of Green Building certifications requirements.   

Responsible sourcing of construction materials is rewarded in most green building certifications, including BREEAM and LEED.  


1. BREEAM New Construction 

BREEAM New Construction provides credits for responsible sourcing in its ‘Materials’ Category under credit MAT03– with an intent of “recognizing and encouraging the specification and procurement of responsibly sourced construction products.” Where a project demonstrates the use of responsibly sourced materials, up to 3 credits are awarded. For example, if a new retail development located in New York is under assessment, responsible sourcing may account for around 3.3% of the total score and rating. If the project demonstrates exemplary performance within this credit issue, the project can be awarded an innovation credit – allowing for an additional 1% to be added to the projected score.  

When targeting an ambitious certification rating such as BREEAM Excellent or Outstanding, implementing responsible sourcing can help boost a project’s score with a relatively significant percentage related to BREEAM assessments.   


2. LEED BD+C  

By awarding up to 2 points for responsible sourcing of materials, LEED BD+C intends “to encourage the use of products and materials for which life cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life cycle impacts. To reward project teams for selecting products verified to have been extracted or sourced in a responsible manner.”  

The LEED BD+C certification scheme similarly offers an innovation credit for showing exemplary performance in the “Sourcing of Raw Materials.”  

Like BREEAM New Construction, if you are targeting a high-level rating such as LEED Gold or Platinum, considering responsible sourcing may help a project successfully achieve the desired level of performance.   


How to prove responsible sourcing of Materials: Which schemes for which material type.   

If your project is pursuing BREEAM New Construction or LEED BD+C Certification, it’s important to ensure that your suppliers hold a compliant RSCS (Responsible Sourcing Certification Scheme) or EMS (Environmental Management Scheme). BREEAM provides a list of recognized RSCS/EMS – representing the main source of guidance for BREEAM projects that are targeting the credit. To demonstrate compliance with the required RSCS/EMS schemes laid out by BREEAM, the supplier must hold the correct label or version of the RSCS/EMS. For example, in the case of aluminum manufacturers, BREEAM recognizes suppliers that (i) are a member of the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) and (ii) hold both ‘Certified Performance’ and ‘Certified Chain of Custody’ certifications. Achieving one of the two required certifications is not enough to fulfill the requirement. BREEAM also requires that the specific manufacturing facility where your material originates is included in the scope of the achieved certifications. In other words, if the manufacturing facility has not been certified itself, it is not recognized for this credit issue.  

 BREEAM Guidance Note 18 (GN18) is the go-to reference for BREEAM recognized RSCS and EMS along with their associated summary score levels[4].  

 On the other hand, LEED BD+C considers the following as responsibly sourced materials: Products with Extended Producer Responsibility, Bio-based materials that meet specific criteria*, wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or other USGBC-approved equivalents, reused materials, and products with recycled content[5].   


Tools that might help you.  

Various tools exist that may help in evaluating responsible sourcing eligibility for LEED and BREEAM. The most common ones are BREEAM’s MAT03 Calculator** and LEED V4.1’s Building Product Calculator[6]. 

OneClick LCA is another software that assists BREEAM and LEED Assessors in this credit issue. OneClick is aligned with both BREEAM and LEED requirements – meaning an Assessor can purchase a specific software package to evaluate the recognized responsibly sourced materials in the context of the credit requirements. The software offers tools for MAT03[7] compliance for BREEAM reporting and MRc3 — Building product disclosure and optimization, Sourcing of raw materials for LEED[8].  

OneClick is also commonly used for embodied carbon analysis, life cycle assessment, and life cycle cost reporting.  


How can Longevity Partners help you?  

At Longevity Partners, we can help steer your responsible sourcing approach and overall sustainability goals in the framework of a green building certification.  

Click here to find out more about the services we provide.  


* Specific criteria for bio-based materials are outlined in the credit description: 
** Most recent version available to licensed assessors only.  




[3] The 3 pillars of sustainable development: People, Planet, Profits – BusinessMirror 

[4] Guidance Note 18 BREEAM 




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