Progress cemented

Howard Klee, Programme Director for the Cement Sustainability Initiative, celebrates the recent publication of his organisation's progress report

This summer saw the release of a progress report from one of the most comprehensive sustainability initiatives undertaken by an industry sector. Representing more than half the world’s cement production outside China, the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) Interim Progress Report documents the delivery of industry pledges made in 2002.

The most significant of these pledges is probably the production of an industry-wide protocol for measuring and reporting carbon dioxide emissions from cement manufacturing. Most interestingly, this represents the first time that an industry sector has agreed to, and actually adopted, an independently-audited emissions protocol on a voluntary basis.

Cement sustainability

The CSI was formed in 1999 in co-operation with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Dr Mostafa Tolba, President of the International Centre for Environment and Development (ICED) and Former Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), commented, “The CSI represents a serious effort by an important industry sector to tackle complex sustainability issues in a practical, results-oriented way. It uses a common set of key performance indicators which address both business and stakeholder concerns, while requiring public reporting of individual company achievements. This is a major step forward in providing an important level of accountability for a voluntary programme.”

As well as individual actions undertaken by members of the CSI, other projects common to the member companies include:

u A common emissions monitoring and reporting protocol for nitrogen oxides, sulphur compounds and particulates;

u A set of safety metrics which enables companies and plants to report accurately and consistently on health and safety issues;

u Guidelines for the use of fuels and raw materials;

u An environmental and social impact process enabling companies and communities to work together during the development, operation and closure of a cement facility.

Under the guidance of the WBCSD, the CSI commissioned extensive independent research into the global impact of the cement industry, and worked closely with stakeholders to develop its Agenda for Action to examine ways in which the sustainability of cement production could be improved. The Interim Progress Report compares accomplishments to the Agenda’s promises, describes how progress is being measured by using key performance indicators (KPIs), and lists collaborators and participants in the work. These include: the WWF, World Resources Institute, the Nature Conservancy, the International Finance Corporation, the UN Environment Programme, CARE International, and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories.

A complete progress report in 2007 will report the CSI’s progress and identify issues where future actions may be required. Between now and then, the task for the 17 member companies is to integrate these commitments, processes and measurements into their individual organisations.

The companies are now evaluating assurance options for the KPIs on which they will report. These will help ensure the credibility of reports as individual companies, while trying to minimise the complexity, time and costs frequently associated with many verification and certification approaches. Initially, assurance work will focus on CO2 emissions and the corresponding KPIs.

Successful change

The Agenda for Action is based on a 20-year timeframe, divided into five-year blocks, matching the cement industry business planning cycles, capital spending and a typical public policy timeline. There are other issues that could be addressed by the CSI, but the first priority is to reduce the industry footprint from today’s operations. I believe the CSI’s Progress Report is the strongest evidence yet of a large industry sector making truly successful and sustainable change. n

The CSI’s Progress Report is available at

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