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Tarmac interview: Forward thinking for sustainability

Delivering sustainable solutions for customers is a core principle for Tarmac’s lime and powders division. Nadine Buddoo looks at how the company’s sustainability strategy is entrenched in every aspect of the business. 

With a history spanning more than 150 years, Tarmac has contributed to some of the UK’s largest construction projects, including Wembley Stadium, Heathrow Terminal 5, The Shard and London 2012. Experience, knowledge and customer relationships gained from these schemes has been key to development of the business’ capabilities and drive to deliver ever better solutions.

Tarmac believes its successful involvement in these major projects can be attributed to a combination of its people, technology and assets. This combination enables the company to work in partnership with its customers to offer a range of innovative and sustainable solutions.


Tarmac’s main lime production site at Tunstead, Derbyshire

Tarmac’s customer-centric approach is a key driver for its focus on sustainability. The company’s sustainability strategy marks a milestone in Tarmac’s goal to become the industry’s preferred provider for sustainable construction solutions. As part of the strategy, Tarmac has identified key targets it hopes to achieve by 2020, ultimately embedding sustainability in every aspect of the business. The scheme’s four priority areas are people, planet, performance and solutions (see box).

“Sustainability is not a new concept for Tarmac; it is something we have been doing for a long time as a company because it has been deemed as best practice,” explains Viv Russell, lime and powders director at Tarmac. “The sustainability strategy has actually given people a simple way of understanding all of the complex things that we do. It also allows our customers to identify with what we’re trying to achieve and how it is aligned with their goals.”

According to Russell, Tarmac’s solutions fit well with the focus on sustainability. “With lime for the energy from waste plants, we’re providing clean air by treating the acidic gasses that are made from the burning of plastics. We’re providing clean water by providing 70% of the lime needed for the water treatment works,” he says. “Also, with soil stabilisation, it reduces the amount of material that has to be taken off site or tipped, and it reduces the amount of primary aggregate that has to go onto site.

“There are many different forms that the lime takes in terms of our product types. It’s a very sustainable solution for our customers. It is very much contributing to the idea of sustainable construction and whole-life sustainability.”

The company is currently supplying its products to a wide range of sectors and projects, with customers including large energy from waste plants like Veolia, as well as the pending soil stabilisation scheme at Hinkley Point.

However, Russell believes a key part of Tarmac’s success in these varied projects rests firmly with the end-to-end service it provides, not just its products. “It’s not the lime specifically, but the whole package that goes with it. It’s very much our logistics provider, which makes sure we are delivering the products on time and in the right quantity. Also, our commercial team are very technically competent, so we have the opportunity to make sure we sell customers the right product,” he explains.

“This competence allows the commercial team to identify opportunities and how we can help our customers by reducing the amount of lime we sell them or what they may need. It’s the whole delivery of the product rather than just the physical aspects of the product.”


People power

Tarmac’s people are clearly a key part of the company’s commitment to sustainability and long-term success. As part of the sustainability strategy the company has introduced a company-wide community volunteering initiative.

“It is very interesting that when we logged the volunteering that people at our main production site at Tunstead already do, we were flabbergasted at the hundreds of hours they were doing already. Our strategy allows you to break down the sustainability approach and recognise how you are performing so you can measure what you are doing and produce an action plan on how you can improve,” says Russell.

“There are some very tangible areas where we can see how we’re embedding good practice into the business. The most tangible part of it will be that we’re being chosen because of our sustainable credibility.”

As part of this ambition to become the supplier of choice, Russell acknowledges that it will be integral to remain attuned to the changing needs of Tarmac’s customers. “I think certainly in the short to medium term due to the fact that the economy has picked up and there is a lot of expertise that has been lost, we’ll be helping our customers in providing solutions,” he says. “Rather than customers having in-house expertise, they’ll be looking for the expertise to come from their suppliers because a lot of the tacit knowledge has actually left the business.

“I think they will need a lot of help getting over the challenges of the growth that is happening. From then on, I think it will be looking at how we can actually form longer-term partnerships so that our customers have longer-term solutions.”

“We’re looking to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and understand how our products can actually help them”

Viv Russell, lime and powders director, Tarmac

Russell envisages an evolution of the business as it focuses on its role as a sustainable construction solutions provider. “We’re looking to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and understand how our products can actually help them,” he says.

“It’s very much about circular solutions. For example, we’re looking at not only providing lime to the energy from waste plants but also how we can use the waste residue in our own products and how those products are delivered to sites where it can help our customers win contracts.”

Russell adds: “The challenge is working in the very complex political and social environment that we have now. The main issue is the limited time and resource of people, because we’re all very busy. We must make sure that we can drive through these improvements while still making money safely.

“A sustainability strategy is all well and good but it’s all about visual and credible performance – that will ultimately differentiate us.”

While Russell acknowledges that this will be challenging, it’s clear that Tarmac is well positioned to achieve its sustainability objectives and deliver innovative solutions for its customers.


The key priority areas of Tarmac’s sustainability strategy include:

  • People – the company says it is committed to developing a zero harm culture. “Making sure our people stay safe and healthy is of paramount importance to us,” says Russell.
  • Planet – a focus on how Tarmac uses materials in a sustainable way, reducing greenhouse gasses and optimising the use of resources.
  • Performance – building a successful and responsible business that creates value for all stakeholders and upholds high ethical standards.
  • Solutions – “We’re very conscious that we provide our customers with solutions that are less detrimental to the environment, while providing far more sustainable ways of doing business,” says Russell. 

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