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Clean Cement Deserves a Label

Posted 21 October 2007 by Jacob Malthouse to Opinion.

In booming economies, cement is crucial for growth but an enemy of green” (IHT, 21 October 2007) outlines a major environmental issue: cement. According to the article, cement is now responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions. The article also notes that the greenest cement technologies only reduce emissions by 20%.

While the rapid growth in absolute amounts of cement being produced represents a major environmental problem, discounting the benefits of greener cement is a mistake. 20% less emissions is 20% less emissions. In lieu of substitution for another building material green cement is the next best option and it should be encouraged.

Along those lines the article references the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), a project of the WBCSD (an industry group based in Geneva). Their agenda for action contains an extensive list of industry commitments set for publishing in 2006. Some of the key ones are:

1. baseline data on CO2 emissions and targets;
2. emissions targets;
3. rehabilitation plans for quarries;
4. statements of ethics.

According to an email from the CSI regarding this blog, the companies have further agreed to independent third party verification of their CO2 emissions, and beginning in 2007, the same treatment for plant safety indicators.

On 19 March 2007 the CSI launched an 8 page brief (PDF | 257kb), that outlines aggregate CO2 emissions for 40% of the industry. The brief notes that a full report outlining a five year plan of action is forthcoming this year.

So far ecolabelling.org contains 13 labels under the type – buildings. There is nothing for cement. The success of Home Depot’s Eco-options label demonstrates demand at the retail level for green products. Our informal conversations with procurement officials, along with initiatives like NAGPI in North America, indicate similar demand at the institutional level. We therefore urge the CSI to work with its members and industry label leaders like LEED to establish an ecolabel for cement.

Those companies making the extra effort to produce a green product deserve to be recognized in the market for it.