How Sustainability Drives Our Operations at Lafarge, By Folashade Ambrose-Medebem
…sustainable development is about making a net positive contribution to society and to nature in the ordinary course of our respective operations. We are pleased with the milestones to date and remain committed to protecting people, the environment and nature for our common good.
Sustaining our common future is the responsibility of everyone. In September 2015 the United Nations adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.
On our part at LafargeHolcim, we have The 2030 Plan, which focuses on how we can improve the sustainability of our operations and adopt innovative, sustainable solutions for better buildings and infrastructure. Our plan also looks beyond our own business activities to our wider industry. We are committed to working in partnerships to make the entire construction value chain more innovative and more mindful of the use of resources and their impact on nature. We are also committed to improving the lives of people in communities by providing solutions to their challenges. For us, sustainability is not a one-off project. It is an overriding strategy for all we do and it is in response to some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Built on four pillars of Climate, Circular Economy, Water and Nature as well as People and Communities, the 2030 Plan aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Each pillar outlines a set of quantitative internal and external targets as well as the innovative solutions with which to achieve them.
The 2016 Sustainability Report of Lafarge Africa Plc documents the progress we have made in the past year across all four pillars. It details what we have done to reduce Carbon dioxide emissions, derive energy from waste and aim to operate with zero fatalities. It looks beyond our operations to how we provide water in communities where it is scarce, and the respective initiatives developed to impact thousands to build their dream home or improve literacy. Our annual sustainability reports are a testimonial of our commitment to promoting sustainable construction for a better society.
Our core raw materials for cement production come from nature. We therefore treat nature with great care. For example, the cycle of mining in our mining sites is not complete until the land from which mining activity has been conducted is reclaimed and rehabilitated. Reclamation and rehabilitation involves restoring the mining area to a state as close as possible to what it once was before mining activity began. Many times, the reclamation process begins way before the first shovel of coal or limestone is extracted from the ground. Experts in the mining team have to study the area’s ecology with a view to returning it to its original state after the mine is finally closed. We have so far reclaimed nearly 300 hectares of mined land in Shagamu and Ewekoro. All other sites have modern rehabilitation plans developed in 2017 for on-going implementation from 2018 and beyond.
As natural resources become scarce we seek innovative solutions by recycling waste. We are focusing on new, sustainable ways to derive energy from biomass, industrial and municipal waste. Over the years, we have developed an Alternative Fuel (AF) strategy as part of our effort to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. We successfully substituted 45 percent of fossil fuel used at our Ewekoro plant with palm kernel shells. Today we are pioneers in the use of biomass for fuel on an industrial scale in Nigeria. Our ambition is to depend less and less on fossil fuels by turning waste into energy. We see a growing waste industry and expect to use around 250,000 tons of waste in our plants by 2020. Increased use of palm kernel has both optimised our costs and created over 700 jobs in communities of the South West and Edo State where the kernels are sourced for use in our plants.
The energy intensive nature of cement production means we must keep finding innovative ways to reduce emissions. Overall, compared to 1990, we achieved a 40 percent net decrease of CO2 of 532kg/ton in 2016. At our newest plants – Ewekoro II and Mfamosing, we installed environmentally friendly state-of-the-art technologies that are already helping us achieve lower dust emissions.
Our plants emit dust lower than the Nigerian Government regulatory limit of 100mg/Nm3.
For us, protecting nature is also about improving the quality of human life. We achieve this through the various interventions in infrastructural amenities for our host communities. These interventions include scholarships, building and equipping of school blocks; health centres as well as bore hole and even electricity transformers. Sagamu is host to one of our plants in South Western Nigeria. In the past decade, several communities in Sagamu now have access to potable water from hundreds of boreholes built and maintained by Lafarge. In our own little way, we are contributing to a reduction of water-borne diseases.
In 2017 alone, we invested a total of ₦748 million in various community development projects across locations where we operate and in the National Literacy Competition, an annual competition for public primary school students between ages 9 and 13 from across the country. Over 200,000 students have benefited since the competition began in 2013. A total of 77,000 students from 686 schools in 244 Local Government Areas took part in the 2016 edition. The impact has been significant: more than half of the students who participated considerably improved improved in their reading, writing and comprehension skills. Some states have introduced the Spelling Bee aspect of the competition into their curriculum.
For us at Lafarge, sustainable development is about making a net positive contribution to society and to nature in the ordinary course of our respective operations. We are pleased with the milestones to date and remain committed to protecting people, the environment and nature for our common good.
Folashade Ambrose-Medebem is director of communications, public affairs and sustainable development at Lafarge Africa Plc.