Introduction by Simon Willis, chief executive officer, Hanson UK

2018 was a challenging year for Hanson UK. It began with a cold snap that affected production and impacted heavily on demand during the first quarter. Volumes picked up as the weather improved, but we were then faced with rising costs for energy and bitumen, which we struggled to recover in a highly competitive market. Another frustration was the ongoing political uncertainty around Brexit, which continued to hold back investment in construction projects large and small, putting concrete volumes in particular under pressure.

On a positive note, we did enjoy a number of successes during the year including key investments in our plant and our people, many of which are covered in this report, and with a number of big infrastructure projects either about to come on stream or on the horizon, the outlook for 2019 and beyond continues to look favourable.

An essential element of our business is that we are in it for the long-term. Although we need to be nimble, adapt to changing markets and embrace modern technology, we must always have one eye firmly fixed on the future and how we develop our people, our assets and our mineral reserves.

That’s why sustainability is such an important element of what we do, and why we place so much emphasis on this critical but often misunderstood topic.

Sustainability is not just about reducing emissions and protecting the environment. It’s about working efficiently, making a profit and investing in value-creating projects to grow the business; and it’s about a range of people-related issues from health, safety and wellbeing to succession planning, diversity and adding value to the communities in which we operate.

In May Hanson UK’s senior leadership team held a workshop to discuss and debate a sustainability strategy to take us through to 2030 and align ourselves with our parent company HeidelbergCement’s Sustainability Commitments 2030, launched in 2017.

As one of the leading business units within the HeidelbergCement Group, we are already working on many of these new commitments, but it’s important we ensure they are all properly integrated into our day-to-day activities and that everyone within the organisation understands the part they have to play in achieving our vision of becoming a sustainable market leader.

Communicating our sustainability ambitions and achievements to employees, customers and regulators is an important part of our corporate governance. Both myself and the wider executive team will remain closely involved in this internally through employee briefing meetings, site visits and sustainability working group meetings and externally through our successful programme of sustainability stakeholder workshops.

We are also working hard to ensure our employees are fully engaged, trained and empowered to take responsibility to drive forward ongoing improvements. Our ‘One Team’ philosophy is underpinned by a set of values and aspirations designed to make our people feel connected, involved and valued. This will allow us to deliver an improved service to our customers and strengthen the sustainability of the business.