Interview: How Renta Group is meeting sustainability goals

Rebecca Långström, head of sustainability, Renta Group, talks Scope 3 challenges, approach to tackling the skills shortage and rental’s role in constructions sustainable future.

Rebecca Långström, head of sustainability, Renta Group. Rebecca Långström, head of sustainability, Renta Group.

While there may be no quick fix to meeting sustainability targets, one route some have taken is to create ESG roles, with Speedy Hire and Sunbelt Rentals just two examples of companies that have employed ESG specialists to spearhead the implementation of new processes across fleet, people and governance policies.

Another company to add to that list is Nordic-based Renta Group, which appointed Rebecca Långström as its first-ever head of sustainability in September last year.

The company created the role to align the goals at Group level to those within each individual country it operates in.

Prior to the appointment, the approach to ESG goals were localized, with individual countries given their own governance to perform reports and create ESG strategies.

An example of this is in Sweden, where the company published its first sustainability report in 2021, around a year before the Group was required to do so.

Now, with the aim of a more uniform approach, all regions’ policies will align with one another.

“We have to do a few things the same way (across the company). I think there will be shift in the whole industry where you can’t do as you want anymore. You have to do it very strictly,” says Långström, speaking to IRN in January.

“If you want to be a company that’s ahead of your competition and doing the best that you can for the environment and your customers, you have to be on top of these things.”

Långström tells IRN that, although the new role will see her and the company “start from scratch,” the immediate focus is to ensure Renta complies with CSRD and ESRS as well as compiling the upcoming sustainability report; “I’m trying to improve the process that we started last year,” she says.

“We had a system that was from a consultancy for sustainability reporting for countries to enter their data, and the feedback that we got was that it wasn’t a vuser-friendly system so we are implementing a new platform where we can have all the data and do supplier screenings and ESG-related tasks.”

“Data collection and the quality of the data collection will have a huge role in the sustainability part. Being able to measure something is the only way that you can prove you are reducing emissions.”

Approach to Scope 3

Renta, like many companies, is grappling with the target of reducing Scope 3 emissions. Långström, former quality and environmental coordinator for Atlas Copco, says the company is “very humbled for the challenge” of Scope 3.

“For Scope 1 and 2, we have very good knowledge, but for Scope 3 the biggest challenges will be in the supply chain, especially transportation and manufacture and use of the products,” she says.

“There’s also many different suppliers and stakeholders involved, so we have tried to prepare our suppliers to begin somewhere.

“All countries got a text from me on what type of questions they could start to ask, such as are they covered by CSRD? Also, more concrete action questions like, can you report C02 emissions on your transportations? Do you know the origin of all your metals in the machines?

“We are very humbled and transparent that we will have challenges to collect all the data and we are very much depending on our suppliers for this, as well as our customers will be depending on us to deliver the data. We have to cooperate a lot more than we have done before.”

She also says the size of suppliers will pose a challenge, with bigger suppliers having the benefit of more resources and time to deliver data, while its smaller customers will have to “try and balance data with how much resources they have.”

Renta says investment in fleet will be key in how successful the company is in meeting the Scope 3 challenge.

Of course, investment in fleet will be key in how successful the company is in meeting the Scope 3 challenge. Looking back, Renta invested €132 million on its fleet in 2022, placing it among the top 25 globally according to the IRN100. In 2021 the company also added its first fully electric wheel loaders

While this is an indication that the company isn’t content with its growth trajectory, will future fleet investment also reflect its increasing focus on sustainability?

“We are continuously looking into more green machines with battery or electricity but also keeping our eyes open for hydrogen solutions that the suppliers are developing,” Långström says.

“We have recently hired a fleet director who will be responsible for purchasing for the Group and I will work a lot with him to try to get a better view on how we can cooperate between the countries because we work with the same suppliers in different countries.”

Social challenges

Långström will also be tasked with tackling social and governance factors across the Group, including the health and safety of users and the human rights aspects of its supply chain, something she says is fairly new to her. This, she says, means the company will screen suppliers against human rights and the source of materials used for equipment.

Meanwhile, a common theme across the global rental industry is the notable difficulty in attracting skilled workers, a challenge the European Rental Association has addressed through its Convention and the newly created European Rental Week.

Långström says Renta Group is also noting challenges attracting a skilled workforce, particularly in her native Sweden; “I’m of course most aware of the situation in Sweden where we have big challenges to attract skilled workforce and there’s a salary war.

“From the things I know from the different countries that we are operating in, it’s the same there as well. You have to constantly develop, train and offer things, and that is the one part that we can see when we are doing a survey, where sustainability is increasingly important in choosing your employer, especially with the younger generation.

“That’s a main reason why we should focus on these areas, because we want to attract good workers, and it’s becoming more and more important to have a workplace that you can actually be proud of.”

Meanwhile, she believes attracting a more diverse workforce could hold the key to tackling skills shortages; “When we are trying make it more equal in the company, trying to attract more female applicants, for example, it’s very hard.

“We are a very male-dominated industry, the same as the construction industry, and we are trying to level those out and that’s hard because you want to have skilled people. But you also want to have a diverse group in ethnicity, and that is something that we have on the agenda, but it has to be totally transparent.

“The different countries will have initiatives in the different countries, and part of our action plan to tackle these questions is to participate in forums to attract especially female and nonbinary people.

“In Sweden we have started a female network for the people working in the company and this is something that we share with other countries as well. We have an open checklist where the management can see in Sweden we have started a female network, for example.

Renta Group is noting challenges attracting a skilled workforce, particularly where its based in Sweden.

“Then Finland can go in and say, OK, we want to do that as well and then they can start their own network. So we will do these locally initiatives to begin with.”

Sustainable construction

While the construction industry navigates the complexities of transitioning to greener practices, Långström describes the move to alternative fuels as a catch 22 for companies, who need to strike a balance between reducing fossil fuels and customer demand.

“Do you start, for example, switching all the diesel to HVO even if it’s not a customer demand, or do you start with getting the customer demand and then reduce it or switch the type of fuels? That is the question we don’t have any answer to yet, but of course, we are aware that we have to phase out fossil fuels.”

She does however express optimism about hydrogen development in the coming years, predicting a future where machines powered by hydrogen become more prevalent and offer an extended range.

She also acknowledges the hurdle in the price point for eco-friendly machines, particularly for smaller businesses. She says, “Larger customers are usually more keen to pay a little bit more for greener alternatives and they can put more money into sustainable decisions, but we also have a lot of smaller customers that don’t have the resources to do that yet.”

In the context of broader environmental goals and the role of rental, Långström points out the positive recognition from the EU.

“The EU has acknowledged the rental sector for its circular and sustainable activities, so that is something that we, as a company that works on sustainability in rental, were very happy to hear.

“In some countries, the Nordics for example, rental is a huge part of the construction industry. We don’t have many construction companies owning their own machine fleet, but in other countries there are still more that own their fleet, but I think we will see a change in that. The whole rental organisation will have to be better at communicating the benefits of renting instead of owning your own machine fleet.”


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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]