The role of cement and concrete in the circular economy

Cement and concrete play a central role in the circular economy. But in order to fully unleash the potential of these two sectors, which are essential to society, we need to define, develop and implement the right policy framework. Perhaps I should start by highlighting why we are essential, as this point often seems to be overlooked when discussing policies, regulation and legislation. Cement and concrete ensure that we have homes and offices, schools and hospitals, as well as transport infrastructure. Not only that, we are a European industry – our entire life cycle is based in Europe and we hope to stay that way!

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WEF 2015 Global Risks Report: risks of rapid an unplanned urbanisation in developing countries

Ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual meeting in Davos, the Global Risks 2015 Report was issued by the organisers. One of the chapters from the report is dedicated to the risks of rapid and unplanned urbanisation in developing countries. The report starts off by reminding us that, by 2050, city dwellers are expected to account for more than two-thirds of the world’s population. It emphasises that urbanisation can bring important benefits for development as cities are an efficient way of organizing people’s lives: they enable economies of scale and network effects, reduce the need for transportation and thereby make economic activity more environment-friendly. However, a large part of the chapter focuses on the need to manage risks in the face of four major challenges: infrastructure, health, climate change and social instability. The rapid expansion of cities, especially in developing countries, requires adequate global infrastructure and here the Report calls for public-private collaboration to involve the private sector in the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure. It emphasises the negative effects of air pollution, mostly caused by cars, to health of citizens. The report also calls for leadership of the private sector with local governments which it considers at the heart of urban mitigation and adaptation to climate change.  Finally, the Report states that moving to a city offers individuals more opportunities and improves their living conditions but it also warns that the high costs of living and competition for livelihoods can trap people in poverty and lead to social instability.
As private actors that contribute to building the sustainable cities and infrastructure of tomorrow, we should not be deterred by these risks but consider them as an opportunity to engage on a scale which goes beyond the specific product we produce and makes us reach out to society at large. 

"Safer Buildings": a cause our industry should embrace?

The concrete sector, which is at the heart of construction, must address citizens concerns regarding the safety of their homes and other buildings. Together with architects, firefighters associations, and insurance entities we have a responsibility to address the growing issue of safety and to identify solutions to tackle the concern’s of European citizens.

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To what extent should authorities promote the use of recycled aggregates for concrete?

Over the last ten years, politicians and stakeholders alike have focused on better production and use of energy. Nevertheless, energy is not the only resource which can have environmental, economic and geopolitical impacts. All raw materials can play a role, albeit to a different extent. For example, whilst rare earths are scarce in Europe, many other raw materials, such as limestone and aggregates are abundantly available.  In my view, it is therefore wrong to consider that a strategy which is valid for one material can apply to all others. In addition, to consider recycling as the objective for “resource efficiency” would also lead to erroneous decisions. This is why policies should promote the efficient use of locally available materials for a desired purpose.

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