Demographic change and rapid urbanisation are two global mega trends that will require an overhaul of the built environment. In Season 2 of our Mission to Change podcast, ED Katell Le Goulven spoke to Magali Anderson the Chief Sustainability and Innovation Officer at Holcim, the largest cement producer in the world. She is on a mission to change not just cement production but the wider built environment.
1.5 million people are added to the global urban population every week. In the next 30 years there will be an additional 1.2 million km² of new urban space. That is a little larger than the size of Ethiopia.
With such a large expansion of the built environment to accommodate a growing global population and urbanisation, it is no surprise that cement is the most used material on earth after water and accounts for 7% of global Greenhouse Gas emissions. A Zero-carbon, nature positive concrete is therefore a cornerstone of a net-zero global economy and sustainable growth of the built environment. Where better to look for change than with the world’s largest cement production company, Holcim, which has over 180 production plants in over 90 countries with an annual production capacity of 386 million tonnes.
1. Facilitate those who can
Build a space so those that know and can affect change within the company are be able to! Magali saw her role as a facilitator, she looked to those that knew their departments best and worked from there to help facilitate their best recommendations. To start decarbonising Holcim, Magali and her team looked at several third-party consultants, but in the end went in house by facilitating those with expertise in the company to work on the project.
"Decarbonizing cement industry is about technology. It's technical. So, no one understands better how cement works at our own people.”
2. Set your sights on System change
Making changes within your own company is great, but once that is done look to how your business can initiate a wider system change. For Magali, to achieve company change and to assess the company’s own scope 1, 2 and 3 is one thing but she saw her role having a wider impact beyond Holcim’s internal processes. Magali insisted that her role should be placed at the Exco (executive committee) level, to be placed in the best possible location to change the business model and thus create a wider system change for the industry and, in turn, built environment.
"The ultimate goal is to change the business model.
You have people who have been selling volumes of concrete for years. I'm now telling them don't want you to sell volumes of concrete. I want you to sell performance of a construction and the concrete associated to that.”
3. Internal Activism
Magali acted as an internal activist to get Holcim to move the needle. After workshopping possible sustainability options with company employees, the idea of a carbon pledge was decided upon. Magali then proceeded to always use the word “pledge” whenever possible. By doing this Magali managed to ensure that the word pledge was in everyone’s vocabulary, so when the time rolled around for the pledge to be implemented, it did not feel like such a new large concept, everyone was familiar with it.
Business Bonus Takeaway: Be aligned
As Magali said, when a company needs to pick between profit and sustainability, it will often pick profit. For this reason, Magali didn’t want her country CEO to be choosing between her initiatives and the initiatives of the CFO. She worked with the CFO to aligned KIPs so there was no picking between the departments
“We forget… someone who has to choose. And unfortunately, by habit is certainly to please the CFO [Chief Financial Officer] before the CSIU [Chief Sustainability and Innovation Officer]. But that's for habit for the moment.”