The World Business
Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a coalition of 160
international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable
development via the three pillars of economic growth, ecological
balance and social progress. Members are drawn from more than 30
countries and 20 major industrial sectors. It also benefits from
a global network of 38 national and regional business councils and
partner organizations involving some 1,000 business leaders globally.
Sustainable development presents numerous challenges, many of which
are too difficult for a single company to understand and tackle
on its own. To confront key global sustainable development issues
facing one industry, the WBCSD initiated six sector projects, which
- Mining and Minerals
- Electricity Utilities
- Financial Sector
Sector projects are a unique feature of the work of the WBCSD providing
a platform for different actors to cooperate toward common goals.
WBCSD member companies lead these industry sector projects through
multi-source funding and extensive use of stakeholder dialogue.
The analytical work is often contracted to independent organizations.
They also appoint assurance groups, which are composed of experts
from academia, business, non-governmental and international organizations,
to safeguard the independence of the research and offer balanced
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on earth, after water.
It accounts for nearly one ton of the material used annually for
each person on the planet. Cement is the critical ingredient in
concrete, locking together the sand and gravel constituents in an
inert matrix. It is the glue that holds together much
of modern societys infrastructure.
The cement industry generates a wide range of sustainability issues.
Dust and noise from cement plants and quarries are specific local
issues. More broadly, the fuels and raw materials used in the manufacturing
process have generated controversy, and energy-intensive manufacturing
processes result in a significant contribution to greenhouse gas
To help the cement industry play a full role in a more sustainable
future, and to provide the industry with tools to make this happen,
10 major cement companies from around the globe undertook a sector
research initiative in 1999 under the auspices of the WBCSD.
Adding Concrete to the Research
Battelle Memorial Institute (a U.S.-based not-for-profit research
organization) was retained to complete a series of detailed research
studies, integrate the results and produce recommendations. The
independent research organizations, coupled with an external assurance
process, ensured an unbiased view of the industry and its progress
The assurance group, chaired by Mostafa Tolba, former director general
of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), reviewed the
research plan and the work as it has progressed to make certain
that it fairly represents the many viewpoints that need to be included.
Our work on the Sustainable Cement project has convinced me
of the value of focused projects in converting sustainable development
principles into an actionable agenda with companies committed to
making real progress, says Tolba.
The final Battelle report, Toward a Sustainable Cement Industry,
along with different sub-studies, was released in May 2002. Initial
conclusions point to eight issues (see box on this page) that are
critical for the cement industry to address in any sustainable development
plan and action program.
Because it is both global and local, the cement industry faces
a unique set of issues, which attract attention from communities
near the plant and at an international level, says Howard
Klee, manager of the Sustainable Cement project. They are
complex issues ranging from local dust, noise and employment concerns
to the potential impact of cement manufacturing on climate change.
While some structural and market changes are driving the industry
toward sustainable development, others are inhibiting progress.
Barriers include a lack of trust among stakeholders and the industrys
negative image in the media. The industry has a low public profile,
although some issues have generated a great deal of emotional debate,
such as those related to managing wastes, alternative fuels and
raw materials used in manufacture.
Understanding and addressing stakeholder concerns has been critical
in an industry that has little tradition of consulting non-business
stakeholders. This willingness to broadly engage non-business groups
was a first for the cement industry. During the early stages, four
regional stakeholder dialogues were held in Brazil, Thailand, Portugal
and Egypt to listen to and learn from local stakeholders. Their
views and concerns were used to refine subsequent work.
In late stages, facilitated dialogues were held with policymakers
and NGO groups in Washington, DC, and Brussels to understand their
expectations for the industry in dealing with the issues raised
by the study. A final dialogue, held in Beijing, discussed possible
implementation approaches in a rapidly developing economy, and one
that is responsible for one-third of the worlds cement market.
Specific partnerships have also been built with various bodies on
particular aspects of the project. For instance, guidelines for
environmental and social impact analysis are being developed in
cooperation with the World Bank and environmental NGOs. WWF International
participated as a sponsor in reviewing research on climate impacts
of the industry.
Already the project has produced two important results: A guide
for cement plant managers on managing and improving local stakeholder
communications, and a standard protocol for measuring and reporting
CO2 emissions, which is now endorsed by the UNFCCC and the World
Resources Institute, among others. A code of good practice for managing
waste materials in cement kilns is expecting development during
The 10 members of the working group are now developing their response
to the Battelle report, in the form of an Agenda for Action,
to be released in July 2002. The agenda will set out joint and individual
commitments, actions and measurements to deal with specific recommendations.
In the longer term, the project will build on the Agenda for
Action, which represents a plan for the first five years.
A process of engagement and cooperative work with an increasing
number of the industrys stakeholders will begin later this
year. Companies should see reductions in operating costs as well
as strategic advantages such as an enhanced license to operate.
Dr. Barbara Dubach has a Ph.D. in managing environmental
communication in multinational companies from the University of St.
Gallen. In 1997, she began her career with Holcim (former Holderbank),
Switzerland, where she has held a number of marketing and communications
positions. Since April 1, 2001 Dubach has been on secondment from
Holcim to the WBCSD, where she is in charge of communications and
advocacy. For more information, visit www.wbcsd.org.