This year Australia’s largest equipment hire and solutions provider, Coates, launched its first sustainability strategy, including net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, with mid-term targets of a 30 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2026 and a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.

“We have a vital role to play in Australia’s drive towards net zero emissions and our first sustainability plan recognises that sustainability is a key aspect of our current and future business success,” Coates chief executive Murray Vitlich said.

The company is continuing to invest in more sustainable equipment such as solar-powered and hybrid lighting towers, as well as hybrid diesel and electric heavy machinery like earthmovers and compactors.

All Coates heavy equipment is now also capable of utilising from 5 per cent biofuel, with some equipment taking up to 20 per cent.

“2040 may seem like a long way off, but given the lifecycle of our fleet these choices are upon us now, even in areas where the technology is still being perfected,” Coates group manager for product, Dan Goodfellow said.

“So, as well as considering how our product range will meet the current and future needs of our customers, we also need to look at how these products will help to achieve net zero emissions.”

Providing as much information as possible to builders and contractors helps them to make more sustainable choices. With that in mind, the company mandated telemetry technology on all suitable new fleet additions, and much of the existing heavy equipment range has also been retrofitted with a telemetry device.

“By capturing and sharing telemetry data, Coates is able to provide customers with valuable information to inform their equipment hire choices,” Dan explains.

Coates Connect is another tool supporting customers’ sustainable hire choices, providing them with equipment utilisation rates, equipment location data and other telemetry-sourced information.

“Coates Connect streams all of the available telemetry data onto one platform to help customers optimise their equipment hire,” says Dan. “This is a vital tool for understanding how equipment is being used, and to encourage more sustainable hire choices.”

In its own operations, the company is also rolling out an LED lighting program across its branches and will also install solar panels on a number of its sites as the first step to a broader solar rollout over the next five years, while also implementing initiatives to reduce water usage and minimise waste to landfill across its branches.

Coates’ new strategy was made to align with science-backed international agreements and allows Coates to build on the existing circular economy principles within its business model, based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

“Like many of our top-tier customers, circularity is now at the heart of everything that we do,” Coates group manager of corporate communications and sustainability, Sheridan Jones said.

“Coates is a natural participant in the circular economy, and this strategy allows us to extend this focus and leverage some of the things that we already do quite well.”

To help ensure the strategy was more than just words, Coates partnered with leading Australian sustainability and CSR expert, Dr Leeora Black.

“Dr Black’s guidance provided assurance that our strategy would be best practice, and that it would help to achieve our broader aims for business growth, customer enhancement and positive society-wide benefits,” Sheridan said.

At the heart of any good sustainability strategy is also people and community — and Coates has strong links with both.

During the 2019-20 bushfires Coates stepped up to help with disaster recovery, and has continued to do the same throughout the pandemic and during a growing number of disasters as Australia copes with the effects of climate change.

The company recently launched the Coates Foundation and will also launch its ‘Innovate’ Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in early 2022, building on the success and initiatives delivered in its ‘Reflect’ RAP launched last year.

“Our sustainability strategy builds on the compassion of our people, fosters our focus on giving back and directs how we support our customers and communities when and where they need us the most,” Sheridan said.