message from our external sustainability panel


The Sustainability Panel acts as a “critical friend” to Tarmac, giving advice on how best to address the long-term issues that are embodied in the need for sustainability and alerting the company if it perceives that its approach is not aligned with the challenges. It does this chiefly by holding substantial, in-depth discussions with members of the Senior Management Team (including the Senior Vice President) which are informed by specific briefings supplied in advance; members of the Panel also meet on a one-to-one basis with key executives and their teams and take up opportunities for site visits.

The 2019 year was very different from the one we are in now, as this commentary is being written. There was uncertainty, chiefly around the political and business consequences of the UK leaving the EU, but it was also a year which provided continuing opportunity for Tarmac to address the long-term sustainability challenges which it faces. It is with those long-term issues that the Panel is chiefly concerned and with which it, in its role as “critical friend”, is best positioned to assist. Throughout, as in previous years, it fulfilled this role chiefly by holding frank and substantial discussions with the members of the senior management team.

This year, meetings took place just before the outbreak of the pandemic and then towards the end of the year when it was possible to consider the organisation’s response to the “new normal” style of operating and to the implications of a worldwide health crisis for sustainability.

As this report demonstrates, a great deal has been achieved in an extraordinary year. These achievements confirm the Panel’s view that organisations with the culture, strategic perspective and operational ability to address sustainability challenges are also the most resilient to external shocks of a different – but related – nature.

The drive to be “Employer of Choice” (a topic to which the Panel gave particular attention in 2019) is beginning to deliver fruit in 2020 and the sustainability strategy for the next decade and beyond is taking shape, with the references to the longer-term time horizon that the Panel advocated. Despite the radical changes in operating systems that have been required at sites, in offices and throughout Tarmac’s transport network because of the pandemic, steady and in some cases step-change improvements have been achieved in the many elements that make up Tarmac’s sustainability performance.

But the major sustainability challenges faced by Tarmac and by society as a whole remain. As in other walks of life, addressing the issues that are important in the long-term, but may be seen as less urgent in comparison with those that are immediate and all-encompassing, challenges the judgement skills of business leaders and consumers alike. Despite good progress to date the business still has much to do to reduce the carbon intensity of cement production; other building materials are seen to face different challenges. The Panel has encouraged Tarmac to uphold a genuinely whole-life approach to product comparison, to conduct more research into lower carbon cement manufacture and into other building materials which might enhance its portfolio, and to use its extensive network of local and national stakeholders to ensure all building material choices are well-informed.

The Panel has witnessed the growing collaboration between Tarmac and the wider CRH group on sustainability issues. Both parties can derive benefit from a shared approach; Tarmac through the support of its parent company and CRH through the ability to deploy Tarmac expertise and reputation in other parts of its organisation. This reinforces the Panel’s underlying belief that it is working with an organisation that is equipped and supported in its efforts to address sustainability.
(External sustainability panel from left to right; Peter Halsall, Shaun McCarthy OBE, Penny Shepherd, Tony Burton OBE, Jiggy Lloyd, Andy Brown (not pictured)

The mission of the Tarmac External Sustainability Panel is to provide advice and guidance, and to serve as “critical friends” of the company as it undergoes its transformation to a provider of sustainable solutions.

The Panel fulfils its role chiefly by meeting the Tarmac Executive at intervals during the year, informed by site visits and background information. At those meetings, discussions embrace the strategic direction of the business, its response to emerging sustainability issues and other topics requested by the Panel or suggested by the company.

It is not the role of the Panel to scrutinise performance data or to audit the company’s activities, but to provide high-level, strategic guidance. The commentary here does not therefore constitute a review or audit of this report.