The 10 members of the Stakeholder Panel were chosen to assist the Group in defining and implementing sustainable development improvements.
Panel members have a mandate to assess the Group's performance in these respects and to make independent, transparent suggestions as to how its performance could be improved.
With the acquisitions of Orascom Cement and L&T Concrete strengthening an already important international presence, emerging countries are becoming a crucial strategic growth lever for the future of the company.
Community issues are thus more important than ever to the Group. We acknowledge that Lafarge already started reinforcing its action in the fields of Human Rights and community dialog before those acquisitions, and we congratulate it. It is vital for Lafarge to pursue its efforts and to integrate these new constraints to the Group CSR roadmap.
We are confident that Lafarge will dedicate necessary resources to the development of mechanisms that will allow a full expression of the growth potential borne by the Group's activity (employment, supply chain) in favour of poor communities.
The record to date is promising: technological upgrades have delivered sharp cuts in CO2 emissions/tonne in China, while recycling of waste gypsum from nearby power plants shows how Lafarge's ‘industrial ecology' strategy can deliver practical benefits on a significant scale. Lafarge is also beginning to leverage its influence in two important ways:
- By pressing its customers to make more sustainable choices, e.g. lower-clinker cement and better safety practices;
- By encouraging reform at the political level, e.g. through Bruno Lafont's role on the Mayor of Chongqing's advisory body.
But real challenges remain: credit crisis notwithstanding, cement consumption will continue to rise much faster than the carbon savings Lafarge has achieved to date.
As political responses to climate change drive carbon costs ever higher, Lafarge will need to achieve a step-change in carbon management if it is to survive this looming threat to its business model.
In Lafarge the already high contractor and subcontractor fatalities rate have more than doubled from 2007! Lafarge promised to act in a Corporate Social Responsibility way and will address the issues of suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors in greater depth.
In many developing countries there is a widespread use of the contracting system. Workers are employed on a project basis, with no insurance against periods of unemployment or sickness, insecurity of employment and lack of social protection and their wages and conditions of work are far from decent. It would be best if Lafarge directly employed all labor whenever possible. However meeting seasonal peaks of work requires subcontractor employees.
We believe that:
- Lafarge should ensure that their suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors respect obligations to all workers under labor and social security laws and pay social security and pension contributions for their workers.
- Suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors shall be required to appoint a competent person to manage health and safety and to take part in safety meetings.
- Lafarge should ensure that workers are not classified as self-employed when working under conditions of direct employment (bogus selfemployment).
- All workers shall receive a written contract of employment.
Since joining the Panel I have valued the meaningful discussions and the receptive manner in which Lafarge listens to and responds to the Panel. The commitment on Persistent Pollutants to conduct baseline assessment of all kilns is progressing to plan and the data shows that most of the kilns operate within relevant standards.
The next step should be to clarify the intention for level of control and how priorities for improvement will be decided and implemented including a routine monitoring programme. Progress on Safety performance is limited with total fatalities significantly higher. Employee fatalities have reduced, but still there were 5, and contractor fatalities have more than doubled from 2007. A big part of the solution is in the Lafarge report in that where Lafarge has exerted strong influence on contractors their performance improves dramatically. The case study of the Xinpu plant confirms that best practice examples are within Lafarge, and should be spread to all parts of the Group.
The development of a comprehensive Occupational Health system is welcome and should include measures of prevention and protection as well as output measures of work related illness.
I welcome the strong focus Lafarge puts on safety at work, as well as the ambitious targets they have maintained despite the economic downturn.
In addition, we appreciate the work done on stress management and its connexion to employee well being, and encourage Lafarge to pursue its efforts in this way. However, I have the feeling that safety training could be further structured at the operational level, especially in smaller units where communication is less easy.
Finally, I strongly support Lafarge's current effort to disseminate its safety culture among its newly acquired companies, and wish it to be further pursued.
Last year I heard about a former Lafarge employee once telling a conference, "Biodiversity is all very nice but we have a business to run!" However, it was told as an example of how far Lafarge has progressed in recent years.
Today it would simply not be acceptable for senior managers to split biodiversity from business operations. Lafarge's Sustainability Ambitions 2012 set targets agreed with its International Biodiversity Advisory Panel. I commend this approach, and also the openness with which Lafarge faces potential controversy, such as the Ugandan and Brittany issues on this page. Similar transparency on the Isle of Harris some years ago led to Lafarge pulling out of an environmentally unacceptable project inherited by acquisition.
That's why I came onto their panel - I'd seen the integrity of their process - and I was delighted recently when the people of Harris voted to explore National Park status. To me it vindicates Lafarge's costly decision, and shows a willingness to pursue profit but not without values.
Through our partnership and the Stakeholder Panel, Lafarge has made a substantial contribution to reducing its overall ecological footprint, establishing the benchmark for the entire construction material sector.
Therefore, we are pleased to renew our partnership. Lafarge's improved performance in 2008 in relation to CO2 emissions reduction is encouraging. However, WWF requests Lafarge to come up with an ambitious action plan and quantitative targets, notably for developing countries where construction sector is growing rapidly. WWF expects Lafarge to play a constructive role at the UN climate negotiations and to promote a global agreement with absolute emission caps for developed countries, and demonstrate ways for emerging economies to follow a low carbon pathway. WWF expects Lafarge to demonstrate similar leadership on persistent pollutants following the recent agreement at the UNEP GC to reduce global mercury supply. WWF will work with Lafarge to strengthen its persistent pollutants strategy, and help develop a robust and transparent monitoring and reporting programme.
WWF is convinced that, through our new and expanded joint program of work (including water conservation and management), we will continue to provide leadership and set a positive example to business and industry worldwide.
As an architect committed to mainstreaming sustainable construction for 20 years, being part of Lafarge's stimulating stakeholder panel, who contributes to the consolidation of Lafarge's strategic pathway towards sustainability, is a very meaningful experience.
Witnessing Lafarge's success in implementing the targets on reducing emissions and enhancing safety in the process of production, while enhancing the well-being of the local communities they work with, is solid proof that even the largest of organizations is able to transform and adapt to the environmental and social challenges sustainability poses. Looking at the future, I wish cement and concrete to be progressively addressed as essential ingredients of sustainable construction, integrated in solutions which are adapted to local climate and culture, bringing benefits such as health, comfort and reduced resource demand, to people in the markets Lafarge is active in.
Lafarge's strong commitment to achieve important environmental goals (in spite of the current market conditions) and the very positive and successful experiences at the level of local communities, are positive and encouraging messages I hope to see communicated internally and externally to the group.
I am impressed with the progress made by Lafarge on GHG emissions reductions. Remaining challenges include the need to continue progress and set targets beyond 2010, greater use of alternative fuels and ways to reduce clinker content.
R&D investment in this field remains critical. I look forward to a leadership role by Lafarge in promoting awareness of environmentally sound technologies and green products in support of sustainable building and construction, and promoting internationally recognized standards as they grow their presence in emerging markets. Their involvement in collective work in this field under the UNEP Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative is important.
I note also the new interest in water foot printing. Resource intensive industries increasingly need to look at the risks that climate change poses to water availability and possible disruption of supplies globally. My appeal is to look not only at volumes of water used, but also their life cycle impacts.
Finally, I welcome the efforts made in extending environmental audits to all sites. I suggest complementing this with greater take-up of full ISO 14001 certification.
* UNEP : United Nations Environment Program