Sustainability and Gender Equality in the cement industry

Solomon Baumgartner
CEO of Lafarge Egypt

How are you integrating gender equality in your organization? 

I believe in gender equality, and so does the company. We are already seeing a 25% female representation at the senior management level, even though we are not in a sector traditionally attractive to females. We have been working with GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) to provide internships to very young women. I believe that you need to start early to start impacting the industry for which you want to work. We have 16-to 17-year-old high school students coming to us to learn about the industry and hopefully understand that this also could be an industry for them to grow. The question to ask is: How will we increase our gender diversity by 2025? It's important to note that it took us a year to establish the gender diversity goals. If I had come in last year and said without explanation that I wanted to have a 50% female workforce in Lafarge, it wouldn't have worked because people wouldn't have understood why this is important. Now we took a year to educate ourselves internally. We have set our target to increase by 2% to 3% the ratio of our female employees in our operations by 2025. It will take time, but I worked in other African countries and Latin America, where the conditions are similar, and we were able to drive equality; I am confident we can do the same here in Egypt. 

Considering the 2030 agenda, what do you hope Egypt and your company are in terms of sustainability?

Our vision for the future is circular construction to build more new from old by increasing recycled content in buildings. Lafarge Egypt is eager to play an active role in accelerating the cement sector's net-zero transition and making low carbon and circular construction a reality in Egypt whilst complying with Egypt's vision 2030.

Today, we are actively working to decarbonize construction across two main dimensions of our business but are pushing to expand this to all dimensions. Our operations offer consistent efforts to decrease clinker intensity coupled with accelerating the use of alternative fuels and alternative raw materials. In Egypt, the replacement of OPC cement with blended cement has driven a 6% clinker factor reduction, and we are working to reach 10% within the next 6 to 12 months. This means a reduction in our CO2 emissions by about 10%. 

When it comes to alternative fuels and raw materials, our Geocycle is leading in the recycling and waste recovery of materials. In addition, Lafarge Geocycle provides waste management services to industrial sectors such as FMCGs, Oil & Gas, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Thanks to these services, our plant is currently running at 22% substitution of traditional fuels, and our aim is to reach 50% in the next five years.

How is Lafarge Egypt integrating sustainability in the products and services? 

We are scaling up the use of low emission raw materials in the formulation of greener products, from recycled construction and demolition waste to calcined clay. In Egypt, we are proudly part of the iconic tower, which is the tallest building in Africa, whose foundations are built with our ECOPlanet green cement, a solution that has 60% less CO2 footprint.

However, the transition towards a net-zero and circular industrial ecosystem will require substantial investments in new and next-generation technologies. Building norms and procurement standards in Egypt have to evolve based on reliable scientific evidence to specify more recycled content in building materials to make this possible at scale. The current legal framework for Waste Management has to be adapted based on a clear waste management hierarchy (e.g. EU Waste Framework Directive). It should incentivize the (industrial) recovery of waste over landfilling or incineration and ensure an effective waste collection system that forms a prerequisite to improving linkages across the value chain. Carbon pricing mechanisms will also play a central role in this transition. They must be designed to embed carbon costs across whole value chains to ensure competitive low-carbon solutions. This will incentivize investments based on the Best Available Technology (BAT) and enable the development of the necessary business cases to invest in advanced technologies.