Protecting the environment has always been an important element of how we work. But we have not talked about what we do as much as we could.  That is all changing with our new strategic plan, Sunbelt 3.0, because we have added our goal to lead by way of ESG as one of our five actionable components to enhance transparency regarding our commitments and achievements.  Our biggest commitment in this area is to decrease our carbon intensity by 35% by the year 2030, with a shorter-term goal to reduce our carbon intensity and by 15% by 2024.  

We believe this is not just the right thing to do but will bring us significant competitive advantage.  Renting equipment rather than buying it is already the most environmentally friendly way to use equipment.  We believe rental is essential to environmental progress, designing out waste, reducing emissions and keeping products and materials in use, thereby assisting the regeneration of natural systems rather than depleting them consistently.  

We are committed to providing the very latest, low and even zero carbon emissions equipment available.  We also increasingly help our customers work in more environmentally friendly ways.  For example, through the provision of battery powered generators to serve as temporary back up power.  We provide solar-powered light towers which provide light for up to 60 hours before they need a charge, to allow work to continue after dark without carbon emissions.  Our ground protection helps minimise the environmental impact of foot and vehicle traffic, creating a buffer that, being washable unlike wooden mats which can absorb mould and contaminants, is also safely transferable. 

We already offer the most comprehensive range of green equipment available in the market but we are committed to working closely with all our suppliers to help them develop the most environmentally sustainable equipment that we can then buy.  Customers can also opt to use less toxic biodegradable hydraulic oil for use in equipment operated in sensitive areas, for example.  We also have industry leading availability of natural gas generators and hybrid light towers. 

Zero Emissions Sunbelt vehicle

Climate change 

Like any other business, climate change has the potential to impact ours greatly. For example, adverse weather events or natural disasters could negatively affect economies and disrupt our business day-to-day.  However, unlike many other companies, climate change is more of an opportunity for Ashtead than a risk.   

Our commitment to improving energy performance and reduce carbon emissions is intended to reduce our impact on the environment and should also deliver significant long-term cost savings.  We can do this through managing our own performance and enabling that of our customers. 

Waste 

We are focused on reducing waste to landfill and the amount of water we use.  

Our business model necessarily promotes less waste overall going to landfill because we are renting the same piece of equipment to many customers and maintaining it to such an extent that it has a long product life.  If each of our customers were buying all the equipment they need, perhaps using it only a few times and then disposing of it, then there would be considerably more equipment going to waste than with a rental model.  We are working proactively with our supply chain to increase the amount of recycling of our equipment that can be done to avoid even obsolete equipment going to landfill. 

We are actively pursuing programmes to reduce the volume of the waste we produce in all our territories.  We are working with suppliers and vendors to reduce the packaging included with products we procure and are partnering with suppliers to develop takeback programmes for equipment packaging and protective materials.  We offer recycling at our owned rental sites, partnering with vendors and suppliers to enhance the recyclability of products. 

Environmental opportunities 

Unlike many other companies, climate change also represents an opportunity for Ashtead which will also bring us significant competitive advantage.  There are two main factors contributing to this opportunity.  

Firstly, as regulations change requiring greater use of lower carbon technologies, companies will voluntarily choose to use more environmentally friendly equipment.  However, as we see today, emerging technology is more complicated and expensive, at least initially, than existing technology.  As a consequence, it will be more efficient for companies to rent that equipment from us rather than buying it themselves.  So climate change will provide additional impetus to the shift from ownership to rental that we talk about often in this report.   

Secondly the more extreme weather events associated with climate change lead to the kind of damage and clean-up operations in which we are highly experienced.  Our disaster response capability is one of the specialty areas in which we truly excel and are well known.  While not linked directly to climate change, our disaster relief capabilities were immediately called upon to assist with management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, Canada and the UK, even under lockdown across all territories. 

For more information on our performance in this area see our annual report.