Could an environmental ranking system for cement drive sustainability?
This is a different kind of JAMCEM blog. This isn’t about equipment or engineering or training. This time, we’re talking about climate change. There is no doubt that the past few months have seen a re-emergence of the need to take action now on climate change and that has brought with it renewed focus on the cement industry. Unfortunately, in all the media coverage there is no recognition of the work that the industry has done in the past 20 years to tackle an issue that we have been aware of for a long time.

We’re not just talking about emissions from fuels and power. CO2 is created in the process of making clinker. And you can’t – yet – have cement without clinker. So what more can we do to promote what we have done, as well as try to influence customer behaviour?

Thus far, the cement industry’s in-plant efforts to curb CO2 emissions have focused on three main areas:

- Reduce fuel and power consumption.
- Reduce the clinker content of cement.
- Switch to alternative fuels.

All these efforts should be commended. But are customers aware of them?

Consumer behaviour drives change. We’re seeing it in the uptake of renewable energy and electric cars. We’re seeing it in the resistance to plastic packaging. And we could see it in the cement industry – if we were able to provide consumers with a simple way of understanding the product’s environmental impact.

What if we could give cement products an environmental ranking in the same way that domestic appliances such as dishwashers are ranked in bands from A+++ to F? This method has been pushed the development of ever more efficient appliances. It’s hard to imagine a customer ever buying an E ranked washing machine – and, given equal price, who would buy a B ranked machine over an A++ ranked? Could this same system work for cement?

We believe it could. Here’s our proposed formula:

kg CO2 / tonne cement / MPa of 28 day mortar strength using EN standard testing methods

For example: a typical CEM I 52.5N in Europe has a kg CO2/tonne cement of 828 for a 28-day compressive strength of 63MPa. By dividing the 828 by 63 a ranking of 13.2 is produced.

We would end up with a ranking list that looks something like this:

Of course, there are obstacles to using this same kind of system for cement. The issue of minimum cement content in concrete, for a start – a subject that requires a global critical review. But if we were to adopt an environmental ranking system for cement, it could influence customer behaviour and provide a competitive differentiator that would surely inspire manufacturers to strive for the highest possible ‘score’. Especially if the specifiers of cement for large projects required a minimum of, say, an environmental class B cement to be used.

This post is just the tip of the iceberg. To read the full article ‘Environmental ranking of cement’, click here.