message from our external sustainability panel


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.

The Panel addressed two sustainability challenges in particular depth. The first was Tarmac’s aim to be an “Employer of Choice”. This is a fitting aim for the company and the company’s position on sustainability is key to its achievement. The Panel contributed to the development of Tarmac’s Inclusion and Diversity programme, encouraging the company to use only appropriate indicators, to balance the interests of both incoming and long-standing employees and, above all, to frame the programme for the long-term, avoiding the pitfalls of tokenism and “hype”.

The second concerned attitudes to concrete as a building material, in a climate in which other materials are available and have many advocates, including those whose commitment to tackling climate change and to sustainability is no less genuine than Tarmac’s. The Panel has encouraged the company to cultivate an environment in which the advantages and disadvantages of different materials can be examined collaboratively and with sound information. It has cautioned against a dialogue comprising simply claim vs. counterclaim and advised the company to explore its own portfolio of products, assets and potential partnerships so as gain business advantage from the market’s desire for choice. With the right approach, Tarmac has the knowledge base, the reputation and the reach to satisfy a range of interests both upstream and downstream in the marketplace, and to reap business rewards in so doing.

During the year, the Panel was also pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the next iteration of Tarmac’s Sustainability Strategy. Achieving Net Zero is clearly the centrepiece of this Strategy; the Panel fully supports this approach but has also encouraged the consideration of issues which are currently lower profile but have the potential to emerge in a timescale which goes beyond the next 10 years.

During the year, the Panel was pleased to hear about the development of the CRH approach to sustainability and to suggest how the interchange of ideas between Group and Tarmac might be expanded to mutual benefit.

That was 2019. Since then, as all stakeholders are acutely aware, a very different business climate has materialised – and very rapidly. This is not the time or the place for the Panel to comment on the pandemic, Tarmac’s response or the implications for sustainability. But it does conclude by expressing confidence that the company’s commitment to sustainability, at all levels within the organisation, will prove to be central to addressing this alongside other challenges.

(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.