The company is tackling ambitious sustainability goals on multiple fronts.
Construction’s carbon footprint is among the largest of any industry. One area ripe for improvement is the sustainability of equipment used on construction and industrial worksites.
As a leading provider of rental equipment and related services and solutions, United Rentals is working to identify how it can contribute to earth-friendlier practices on customer worksites, and also reduce its own climate impact. Among its goals are shrinking its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 35% by the year 2030, from a 2018 baseline, and offering lower-emissions rental equipment.
Here are six key steps the company is taking to increase the sustainability of its operations and help its customers reduce their carbon footprint.
1. Boosting the efficiency of corporate buildings and properties
For years, United Rentals has been taking action to improve energy efficiency in its buildings. Performing regular preventive maintenance on heating, cooling and air conditioning systems and retrofitting lighting with energy-efficient bulbs are just two examples.
Changes such as these can make a real difference. Lighting retrofits at 87 locations in 2020 saved 2,127 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). That’s comparable to removing 463 passenger cars from the road for a year, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By 2025, the company aims to complete lighting retrofit of 95% of Norther American operations*.
2. Diverting Waste
United Rentals is committed to diverting 70% of our waste from landfills by 2025.
3. Reducing emissions from company vehicles
Many United Rentals employees log miles on the road visiting customer sites and delivering equipment. Regular turnover of the vehicles they operate means United Rentals can upgrade them to models designed for greater sustainability and increased performance. More and more, that means electric, hybrid and alternatively fueled vehicles. In 2022 the company purchased its first electric pickup trucks and cargo vans.
Another key element to reducing emissions is driving less. The company’s field automation systems technology (FAST) program helps provide optimal delivery and pickup routes and loads while increasing trailer deck space. That reduces the number of miles driven, lowering fuel consumption and associated emissions.
Driving smarter helps, too. Providing drivers with driver scorecards incentivizes them to avoid behaviors such as hard braking and engine idling that increase emissions.
4. Tapping the passion of employees
Through Planet United, a new employee resource group, team members are joining forces to identify large and small earth-friendly actions the company can take and to spearhead those initiatives. On Global Recycling Day, the group promoted recycling activities and awareness across all United Rentals branches — one step toward reaching the company’s goal of diverting 70% of its waste from landfills by 2025.
In 2021, the company formed a Sustainability Steering Committee comprised of senior leaders and subject matter experts. That committee is helping the company coordinate efforts and drive progress toward its sustainability goals.
5. Providing efficient, low-emissions rental equipment options
Electric or hybrid units represent about 20% of United Rentals’ rental fleet, and the company is continuing its investment in equipment that helps customers reduce their emissions.
In 2022 it announced two additions to its rental fleet, both of which stemmed from close partnerships with OEMs. The first is Powr2 Energy Solutions’ POWRBANK, a zero-emission portable energy storage solution that integrates with diesel generators. It enables users to reduce generator run time, emissions, noise and fuel waste. The second is Takeuchi’s new electric compact excavator, which is 100% battery powered with zero emissions.
United Rentals is working with several manufacturers to add even cleaner equipment to its rental fleet.
6. Offering digital tools to help customers be more sustainable
Customers have their own sustainability goals, and data can point to ways to achieve them. United Rentals’ Total Control®, the cloud-based worksite management solution, assists them in monitoring and managing the environmental impact of their fleet.
Customers can track engine hours and use that data to reduce engine idling. Utilization reports help them right-size their fleet and make the most of their existing equipment. Soon, an emissions reporting feature in Total Control will allow customers to track the estimated greenhouse gas emissions of their rental fleet, calculated based on estimated fuel burn and fuel type.
These are just a few of the ways in which the company is working to minimize its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Together with its customers, United Rentals aims to leave a lighter footprint and build a better, more sustainable future.