What makes a sustainability leader? Meet net-zero champions Holcim

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards less than a month away, this series showcases the achievements of previous winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: Winner of our 'Net-Zero Carbon Strategy' award, Holcim Group.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet net-zero champions Holcim

Ready to follow in Holcim's footsteps? Entries for the 2022 Awards close on 1 October 2021

Editor’s note: At the time of the 2021 Awards, Holcim Group was LafargeHolcim. It has since been renamed.


Holcim has developed a breakthrough that will mitigate 150 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. This is a landmark in the hard-to-abate cement sector, where a net-zero strategy at product level had not previously been considered possible. Holcim claims to be the first global company in the cement industry to make a net-zero pledge with intermediate targets validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

The business is taking a holistic approach on the journey to net-zero, from shaping the plants of tomorrow with automation and artificial intelligence (AI), to accelerating green solutions such as ECOPact green concrete and Susteno green cement. Leading the way in green construction.

By 2030,Holcim aims to: accelerate the use of low-carbon or carbon-neutral products such as ECOPact and Susteno; recycle 100 million tonnes of waste and by-products for energy and raw materials; double waste-derived fuels in production; reduce direct (Scope 1) CO2 emissions per tonne of cementitious material by 17.5%; establish its first net-zero cement plant, and reduce indirect (Scope 3) emissions from fuel and transportation by 20%.

By 2050, the business aims to: reduce direct (Scope 1) CO2 emissions to a target consistent with a net-zero pathway endorsed by the SBTi; be carbon-neutral in power-related (Scope 2) emissions, and reduce Scope 3 emissions significantly, targeting a 50% reduction. Holcim has a strong history of leading its sector in mitigating climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Since 1990, its Scope 1 and scope 2 emissions per tonne of product have been reduced by 27%.

Crucially, Holcim is engaging the wider industry as well as setting sector-leading ambitions in-house. It is the first global building materials company to sign the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5C’ pledge. Additionally, the business has partnered with the SBTi to develop the first guidelines for companies in the sector to adopt net-zero-aligned GHG targets. Science-based references tone-zero for the cement sector currently do not exist.

Holcim has been actively involved in supporting the development of low-carbon roadmaps for its industry. In 2017 and 2018, the organisation collaborated with the InternationalEnergy Agency to update the low-carbon technology roadmap for the cement industry. Then, in 2020, Holcim was a key contributor to the Cembureau net-zero roadmap and the Global Cement and Concrete Association’s Climate Ambition towards carbon-neutral concrete. These collaborations, together with the wider expertise within the organisation, have supported the development of its own strategy.

The company’s entry for these awards proved that sustainability has been at the heart of decision-making, including investments and company strategy development, and at all levels of the organisation, since Magali Anderson was appointed as its first chief sustainability officer in 2019.

Through the Audit Committee and the Health, Safety and Sustainability Committee (HSSC), the board of directors oversees Holcim’s sustainability strategy framework and reviews performance against key indicators. Accountability for executing the net-zero pledge sits with the chief executive, senior leaders, and everyone in the company. The long-term incentive plan for the company’s top 200 managers tracks the company sustainability results, and more specifically, progress against its CO2 targets. This has been a fundamental enabler for delivering an innovative and ambitious carbon reduction strategy, accelerating the organisation’s transition to green construction.

Holcim has received recognition from investors and ESG ratings agencies for its leadership position on carbon reduction, and customers are interested in the company’s growing range of low-carbon products and solutions. Most large construction companies have targets to reduce Scope 3 emissions, and these products help them to achieve them.

What’s more, employee engagement with the net-zero pledge is inspiring, with Holcim’s 70,000 employees striving to achieve this ground-breaking commitment. The pledge provides a tangible sense of purpose.

The key elements of the strategy are developing as planned, and the impact of its communication has exceeded expectations. At Climate Week NYC 2020, Holcim’s net-zero pledge was featured in the opening speech from COP26 President Alok Sharma. In addition, chief executive Jan Jenisch was invited to take part in the opening ceremony’s Race to Zero session in a recorded discussion with COP26 High Level Champion Nigel Topping, where he announced the pledge. The pledge has also been featured in key media outlets such as Reuters, Bloomberg and the Financial Times – and Holcim’s net-zero pledge webpage has scored a record number of visits.

edie’s judges said: “This was a hotly-contested category with entries from a range of sectors. Holcim is recognised for its work to bring about change in the notoriously hard-to-abate cement sector – a crucial supplier to the wider construction sector. The company’s strategy demonstrates a strong pathway with clear interim goals for this decade. Holcim’s approach is also bringing about systemic change, for example by convening industry experts to help develop SBTi methodologies for the wider sector.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

edie Staff

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie