Report: Industry can sustain profits, social initiatives

Report: Industry can sustain profits, social initiatives

Sustainable development (SD) can provide attractive business opportunities for the global cement industry and still offer progress on environmental and social issues, according to a report recently released by Battelle. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) hired Battelle to identify and recommend measures that the world’s cement producers can implement to become more sustainable. With headquarters in Geneva, the WBCSD is a global consortium of over 160 companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development via the three pillars of economic growth, environmental protection and social equity.

Ten of the world’s leading cement manufacturers, who operate facilities that produce almost one-third of the world’s cement, provided the primary funding support for the report. This effort is believed to be the first comprehensive study of an industry sector not prompted by any crisis or visible failure, but rather by a desire to address business strategy and emerging market expectations for sustainable development.

Battelle examined operations involved in the cement production process ranging from limestone quarrying and fuel production to cement plant emissions and safety practices. The study involved detailed exploration of facilities, governance structures, regulatory issues and public interests. Battelle’s work included a series of international stakeholder dialogues held in selected locations on four continents. Participants included government officials, environmental and social organizations, cement plant managers, residents who live near plants, and the media.

All three areas of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social – were explored in depth. Identifying eight areas in which the industry needs to improve performance, Battelle developed recommendations and actions for each. The focus areas include 1) regional development, 2) community well-being, 3) employee well-being, 4) ecological stewardship, 5) emission reduction, 6) climate protection, 7) resource productivity, and 8) shareholder value.

In addition, several recommendations were made in three cross-cutting areas – business integration of sustainable development, innovation, and cooperation between cement companies and other organizations. The report highlights the following observations:

*

Successful adoption of SD by the cement industry will occur only if there is a real synergy between sustainability and profitability. Citing the example of substituting wastes for raw materials or fuels, the report demonstrates how reduced operating costs and improved asset utilization can be coupled with environmental protection.

*

Climate protection is a major issue for the cement industry, which produces 3 percent of worldwide global warming emissions. Again, practices implementing SD principles are provided as means of turning the threat of adverse financial impact to a business advantage.

*

Acknowledging a history within the cement industry of slow-paced technological and operational innovation, the report proposes further investigation of incremental as well as more radical changes that offer substantial progress toward SD in both the cement manufacturing process and cement products.

*

Guidelines are offered to facilitate regular communications with stakeholders at the local, national or international level in order to discuss their concerns and identify solutions.

*

Given the novelty of SD initiatives within industry, a process to achieve internal alignment at all levels of the organization is essential for effective implementation of the SD concept. Accordingly, the report develops a process as well as guidance and support materials for SD alignment based on effective models of organizational change tailored to SD requirements.

*

Specific actions to enhance increased collaboration among cement companies and their stakeholders, governing bodies, suppliers, customers, and academia are proposed. One recommendation is to establish the Sustainable Development Institute of Cement and Concrete in order to conduct joint research, develop educational programs, and integrate cement industry input to governments in the development and assessment of SD policy options.

Over the next three months, participating cement companies will address stakeholder concerns and Battelle’s recommendations with their own action plans.

COPYRIGHT 2003 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group