2021, The YEAR IN REVIEW with STEPHEN HARRISON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE
As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2022 and the publication of our annual results last week, Chief Executive, Stephen Harrison, gives his take on the unprecedented years behind us and shines a light on what’s to come for the business.
Q: How has the pandemic affected Forterra over the past two years?
SH: Fortunately, after the initial lockdown mandates in 2020, we were able to return to normality fairly quickly in terms of our production operations. It is pleasing to report that 2021 saw the sustained recovery of our markets, with the UK’s long-term housing shortage putting us in a strong position for future growth.
Q: What is the biggest challenge Forterra has faced in the last year?
SH: Brexit has had a massive effect on the supply chain, as many industries have experienced recently. Some manufacturers prefer a leaner way of working, but it means production is vulnerable to the slightest change and potentially leaves us all with insufficient stock. Of course, having all the stock in the world is no use without drivers to deliver it! The driver shortage was predictable, but nonetheless affected us. Between costs of labour, fuel, and energy, businesses are facing a huge inflationary pressure, which is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Q: Are there any positives to come from all of this?
SH: A silver lining, if you can call it that, is the current focus on energy has led to a push in looking into the feasibility of increasing the use of renewable energy sources in the UK, which would do wonders for our nation’s carbon footprint. This is something we started working on last year by transitioning our fleet cars to electric and hybrid, and installing charging stations at our factory and office locations. This year we’re increasing that investment massively through the construction of a dedicated Forterra solar farm, which will provide us with approximately 70% of our electricity from 2025. We also aim to generate 10% of our electricity requirement from on-site renewables by 2025.
Q: Is sustainability something that’s important to Forterra then?
SH: Absolutely. And it’s clear that it is to our customers too, so we all need to do our bit and commit to change. At Forterra we have implemented ambitious ESG targets through the ‘Product, Planet, People’ framework. Between 2010-19 we reduced our carbon emissions by 22%, and have pledged to reduce them by a further 32% by 2030.
Q: What else is Forterra investing in this year?
SH: Our investments in Desford and Wilnecote, are continuing apace, and our newly announced investment in our Accrington brick factory that will see it transformed into the UK’s first volume brick slip manufacturing facility capable of producing 48 million slips per annum, will further strengthen our business and help us to deliver future growth while at the same time improving our sustainability and efficiency. We’ve got two exciting projects being commissioned for 2022/23, which will progressively deliver significant profit and cash returns from 2023. In addition, we have a £200m pipeline of projects to leverage our asset base over the decade. Forterra has a proven history of innovation and we look forward to proving that again and again. Despite the numerous challenges of 2021, it has been a successful business year for Forterra thanks to our broad, complementary product range, trusted brands and loyal customer base.