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Posts by Ramon Arratia

The embodied impact of cement

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Corporate Sustainable Development Report 2013

The publication of Holcim’s sustainability report has made me think about the high embodied impacts that cement brings. Some progress is under way but it is not enough.

Here are the numbers:

Cement production is highly energy intensive. The energy to make one tonne of clinker was 3466MJ in 2013, a reduction from 4500MJ in 1990. But production has increased significantly. For example Holcim’s cement production has increased by almost 120% since 1990 and even energy from coal and pet coke has increased by 25% despite a 14% use of waste as an alternative fuel. So cement growth for Holcim is pushing for 25% growth in coal and pet coke.

The most worrying part is that Holcim is actually the best in the industry (lowest carbon intensity) with net emissions of 572kg of CO2 per tonne of cement.

They aim to reduce that by 25% by 2015 and are on track.

The cement industry could be much more ambitious. It’s easy to point fingers when we have achieved a 90% absolute reduction but that’s not my point. They have instant options, for example – they could reduce the reliance on clinker by using slag from blade furnaces and other alternative materials.

Outside of the industry there is a compelling argument to reduce the demand for cement. Buildings can be designed so that they use less cement and still deliver decent thermal mass and high insulating values. This offers huge opportunities and much more scope for innovation. Architects, urban planners and infrastructure developers have the biggest leverage.

That obviously cannibalises the cement industry but it also offers opportunity to a new business model that sells less tonnes and more value. Innovations at product level that lead to premium products and services will have to be the key driver to decarbonise the cement industry.

Source: Holcim’s sustainability report 

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Energy Security and the 2030 Climate & Energy Package Report

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The Advisory Council I of the Green Growth Platform has released this report pointing to the benefits of a low carbon union. This group of advisors from esteemed international organisations, some members of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and academic experts makes a number of recommendations to Ministers and their governments in the run up to the European Council energy security discussions next week. There’s more about the stakeholders and their vision throughout the CISL website.

Click on the image to download the report:

Energy Security Report

 The low carbon union has also been captured neatly in this infographic:

Low Carbon Energy Union Infographic Final


Here is some of the press surrounding the initiatives:

Bloomberg – “The European Union needs an ambitious emissions-reduction goal, targets for energy-efficiency and renewables as well as tools to foster investment under its planned 2030 policies, an advisory panel to 14 ministers said.”

Business Green – “Green Growth Group urges EU to revamp energy security strategy”

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The #Circular50 – #Sustainability Influencers

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DS Smith, Ecobuild and UBM have partnered to sponsor Resource – an exhibition and conference that connects the whole supply chain – extraction, design, recycling, manufacturing, retail and resource recovery to capitalise on the commercial opportunities of a circular economy. It’s on at Excel, London, March 2015.

As part of the build up, the organisers are looking for what they call the #Circular50 - the ultimate list of top 50 Twitter influencers in the circular economy community.

The #Circular50 is now open for nominations and they are gathering entries from all circular economy-oriented Twitter users, including manufacturers and service providers, end-users and industry organisations, as well as print and online media and bloggers.

To nominate simply tweet the following:

“I’m nominating @twitterhandle for the #Circular50 list of top 50 influential #circulareconomy Twitter accounts. ”

and replace @twitterhandle with the name of the Twitter account you are nominating. Keep an eye on the Leaderboard.

A resource constrained world demands new thinking and new business models, this event allows senior business leaders to network throughout the supply chain and discover forward thinking solutions for closed loop business strategies. More about Resource by clicking on the image below.



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How Nestlé reduced its energy use by 36% per tonne of product

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Next Manufacturing Revolution have pulled together a great resource including key points and collateral regarding Nestlé’s energy efficiency drive. The headline is this video which explains the £1.9B p.a. energy saving opportunity available to UK manufacturers, and how Nestlé made substantial energy efficiency improvements.

Despite ongoing improvements in energy use, the Next Manufacturing Revolution study identified Energy Efficiency as a major opportunity for UK manufacturers worth:

* £1.9B p.a. in cost savings
* 19.2 MtCO2e in greenhouse gas emission savings
* 3,500 new skilled full time jobs

Manufacturing generates directly 10% of the UK’s GDP and employs 2.5 million people (9% of the employed labour force). Labour productivity improvements in the sector have reduced labour costs since 2001 at a rate of 3% p.a. to £75bn in 2011, a reduction of 1,000,000 jobs.

The NMR study presents opportunities to improve non-labour resource productivity which could enable a revolution in manufacturing and are estimated, conservatively, to be worth for the UK:

Tri-Benefits from the Next Manufacturing Revolution

For more great insights visit

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Understanding sustainability fundamentals

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I’m proud to be involved with The Business & Sustainability Programme Online (BSP Online). It’s an engaging, interactive programme designed for mid-career, high-potential and senior managers to enable them to understand the fundamentals of sustainability, how sustainability is relevant to their role and its importance to business success. It is also suitable for sustainability professionals who would like to refresh their knowledge.

CISL has a 25-year track record in designing programmes to build leaders’ understanding and capacity in relation to the complex and interconnected economic, social and environmental issues that organisations face. This includes a ten-year history in online learning with Chronos, the first corporate sustainability e-learning programme, developed with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and launched in 2003. The Business & Sustainability Programme Online is a new standalone CISL programme, which builds on CISL‘s track record and experience, and draws on leading practice in online learning.

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The ILG (facilitated by CISL) have released the following report titled ‘The Value Of Responsible Investment’. Here are a few elements I’d like to highlight around dysfunctional investment, and do read the whole report which I’ve uploaded here.

The world faces a singular challenge – How will we provide for as many as nine billion people by 2050, each one aspiring to the standard of living typical of the affluent European and US middle classes? And how can this be done with finite amounts of land, water and natural resources, already heavily degraded by human activity, whilst adapting to the destabilising effect of a warmer, less predictable climate? The political, economic and business strategies of the 20th century will need to be rethought in order to meet this challenge. No sector of society will be unaffected.

Some interesting charts from the report offer context around risk and the cycle of dysfunction that currently surrounds commercial markets (If too small to read in the post click on each image to make larger). You can clearly see where climate change sits on the WEF Global Risk Map at the bottom:

Business as usual dysfunction Global risk chart

About the group

The Investment Leaders Group (ILG) is a three-year project to help shift the investment chain towards responsible, long-term value creation, such that economic, social and environmental sustainability are delivered as an outcome of the investment process alongside satisfactory, long-term investment returns. Jointly conceived by the University of Cambridge and Natixis Asset Management, it is championed by the leaders of an influential group of investment managers and asset owners.

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A Resource efficient Europe is possible

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In March an EU platform with several commissioners and stakeholders proposed the following manifesto. (Click on the image to download the PDF). 

In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy. Our future jobs and competitiveness, as a major importer of resources, are dependent on our ability to get more added value, and achieve overall decoupling, through a systemic change in the use and recovery of resources in the economy.

Have a read of the manifesto and see what you think.

A Resource efficient Europe is possible

My key takeaways:

* I couldn’t agree more with this document but its potential is even greater – We could easily achieve 50% resource efficiency, compared to the proposed 30%.

* We need to move to a system where products with lower environmental life cycle footprints are incentivised. Not just incentivising efficient energy-using products, but more embodied carbon efficient products as well.

* Today we live in a product economy. Services are expensive because they rely on people. But the service economy is the local economy (as opposed to growing bananas in Devon). We need more history teachers, more hairdressers, more live music and less products.

* In the building sector the opportunities as huge. Buildings could be designed to use 80% less energy and 60% less embodied energy.

* We need to ban landfill across Europe and have strong taxes on waste for energy plants. That will give stronger signals than wasting public money on betting that some technology will soon arrive, and giving grants here and there while the system does not reward recyclability.

* Let’s not forget the link between carbon, resources and recyclability. Taxing carbon at a product tax level would encourage recycling, since products with recycled materials have significantly less impact than virgin raw materials.

* Shifting taxes away from jobs to resources is another shift we have to make. What a shame that the EU Commission can not be more forceful on this. National governments are unlikely to become the revolutionaries.

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Climate Change: Implications for Cities

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CISL have released The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and it is the most up-to-date, comprehensive and relevant analysis of our changing climate. Urban centres account for more than half of the world’s population, most of its economic activity and the majority of energy-related emissions. This briefing explores the roles cities will play in the fight against climate change.

Click on the image to see the infographic at full size and download the full report here:

Changing Climate Cities

More about Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

“Over 25 years CISL has brought together business, government and academia to deepen leaders’ insight and understanding through our executive programmes, build deep, strategic engagement with leadership companies, and create opportunities for collaborative enquiry and action through our business platforms.

As we begin our second quarter-century, this small but significant change to our name symbolises our renewed focus on working with Cambridge’s world-class, multidisciplinary expertise to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges – to support business leadership for a sustainable world.

CISL has a leadership network with more than 5,000 alumni from leading global organisations and an expert team of Fellows, Senior Associates and staff. HRH The Prince of Wales is the Patron of CISL and has inspired and supported many of our initiatives.”

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Green Manufacturing Numbers – Greg Lavery from Lavery Pennell

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Greg from Lavery Pennell talks about Green Manufacturing. In this video he explains the profitable sustainable industrial model pioneered by us, Unilever and others.

More about Greg here:

Greg has a strong commercial background forged at Bain and Booz and applied managing a portfolio of low emission businesses for Origin Energy. He founded Booz & Company’s Low Carbon & Sustainability business in South-East Asia and Australia. Greg is a fully qualified engineer whose early career with Arup led to his PhD demonstrating the value created for occupants and owners of green buildings.

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