It may consume natural resources, but the cement industry achieves sustainability in a variety of ways
The cement industry has taken a lead, not just in the UK but worldwide, in tackling the sustainability challenge.
Through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, ten industry leaders have developed The Cement Sustainability Initiative in 1999. With Lafarge, Heidelberg Cement (parent of Castle Cement) and Cemex UK Cement all involved, and BLI agreeing to implement the action programme, the UK industry is fully committed to delivering its aims and objectives.
The industry spent $4 million to examine the issues it faces globally over the next 20 years. This is one sustainability initiative that is based not just on words but on action, because it includes a programme of work, some involving individual actions and some partnership projects.
Reducing Raw Materials
The industry already reduced the use of virgin raw materials by using by-products from other industries in the cement-making recipe. For example, pulverised fuel ash from power generation is widely used today. Waste streams containing high percentages of iron, alumina, calcium or silica may be used to replace the limestone and clay usually used in cement production. This avoids bulk waste materials going to landfill.
Saving Fossil Fuels
Each year, the cement industry saves tonnes of fossil fuel by substituting alternatives, ranging from used solvents and packaging waste to scrap tyres.
Land-use and Restoration
Modernisation and rationalisation have led to a significant reduction in the number of factories and quarries operating in the UK cement industry. In 1990, there were 23 factories, today there are 15. Progressive restoration of quarried land reduces the amount of land under extraction at any one time and the industry plants some thousands of indigenous trees and shrubs every year.
Eight Key Aims
The cement sustainability initiative, developed through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is built on eight key aims.
1. Climate Protection: Implement an industry protocol for monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions - each company to set reduction targets.
2. Fuels and Raw Materials: Develop guidelines for responsible use of all fuels and raw materials in cement kilns.
3. Employee Health and Safety: Task force to ensure effective systems to control health and safety performance and companies to share experience to reduce accidents.
4. Emissions Reduction: Develop industry protocol for measuring, monitoring and reporting emissions - companies to publicly report emissions targets.
5. Local Impacts: Create guidelines for economic and social impact assessment by cement companies.
6. Internal Business: Integrate sustainable development principles into management systems and into relationships with business partners and society generally.
7. An Invitation: Bring other cement companies into the initiative and engage with third party stakeholders.
8. Reporting Progress: First progress report released in June 2005 and will produce a full report in 2007. Individual companies continue to report their own progress.