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A shift towards Sustainable Construction, an opportunity for India

A shift towards Sustainable Construction, an opportunity for India

Neeraj Akhoury

In today’s world, cement stands shoulder to shoulder with core sectors like steel, energy and others as one of the key building blocks to nation building. With the current market size of $325 billion, the cement industry (in GDP terms) would rank among the top 50 industrialised nations in the world today. By 2028, this market is expected to grow to $460 billion. And when that happens, the global cement industry would have raced past another dozen or more countries in GDP terms.

Leaders in the cement sector across the world are not only aware of the opportunity this represents, but the weight of the responsibility that comes with it. Almost all major cement producers have committed themselves to a Net Zero future, an important decarbonisation movement that has also taken the larger industrial world by storm.

In the cement sector, we have identified every stage in the value chain as potential target for decarbonisation. The execution of this change is happening within the bigger framework of ‘Circular Economy’. In simple terms, the principles of circular economy pushes manufacturers to treat every material (natural and processed) to be used in perpetuity. A key elements in this system is the ability to cut down or reduce as one of the three Rs, along with reuse and recycle to achieve long term sustainability.

For the cement sector, one of the focus areas has been reduction of the use of clinkers in the manufacturing process, or what in industry parlance is called ‘clinker factor’. Clinker is an intermediary material used in the production of cement. The reduction of clinker factor is achieved by replacing it with alternative blending materials like pozzolana, slag or fly ash (industrial waste) to produce blended cements. This reduces the carbon intensity of the cement—a primary lever for reduction of carbon emissions.

So the more we shift towards blended cement, the lesser will be the use of clinker and thus move the cement industry closer to its ultimate decarbonisation targets.

The growing demand for blended cement in a country like India is particularly very effective in combating climate change. India is today the second-largest cement producer and consumer, with the share of blended cement of around 75% of our total production mix. However, India’s per capita cement consumption at around 235 kilograms is less than half of the global average (520 kg).

The economic growth we are foreseeing over the next few years and decades including the target of becoming a $5 trillion GDP will push the demand for cement to much higher levels. The surge in demand for cement can be environmentally sustained only by our efforts to push for wider use of blended and green cement. From the manufacturers point of view such a shift is already gaining a lot of momentum through more investment in R&D-led innovation to improve products and processes and in no small measure a strong and consistent consumer-focussed advocacy.

As one of the leading markets for cement in the world, this is an historic opportunity for India to establish its leadership in the true sense of the word.

--The author is CEO of Holcim India and Managing Director & CEO of Ambuja Cements Ltd.


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