by Patrick O'Shea, CEO Hanson UK

2014 was the best year for our business since the start of the financial crisis in 2008 as construction activity continued to increase and demand for our products rose. We expected an improvement in our markets, but the outcome was exceptional and confirmed that the dark days of the recession are now firmly behind us.

The Construction Products Association is forecasting a further 5.3 per cent rise in overall output in 2015. Private sector housing and infrastructure will again lead the way but commercial activity – offices, shops and business parks – is also set to increase. A key upside for our business, with its wide geographic spread, is that the recovery is broadening out from London and south east England to other regions.

A rising market inevitably means a rising workload, but our business has met the challenge head on and delivered a high level of quality and service to our customers, although the rapid upturn has meant that in some areas our sustainability indicators have not shown the improvement we were targeting.

We have continued to invest in our people through training and development and in projects to improve efficiency and save energy. New systems have been introduced to make better use of our trucks and we have invested in new and improved production plant to help achieve our challenging carbon reduction targets.

Most importantly, we have kept health and safety at the very top of our sustainability agenda.

It’s clear from this report that we still have a lot of hard work to do if we are to achieve all our 2020 sustainability targets, but I am confident that with a continuing favourable trading environment we can – and will – succeed.