Monthly interview August / September 2016

Our sustainability approach capitalizes on LafargeHolcim’s worldwide presence to provide solutions towards meeting these social, environmental and stakeholder challenges, with one clear goal: to create shared value with society.  

“LafargeHolcim: The business case for Sustainability”


  • With a well-balanced presence in 90 countries and a focus on cement, aggregates and concrete, LafargeHolcim is the world leader in the building materials industry. The Group has 100,000 employees around the world and combined net sales of CHF 29.5 billion in 2015.
  • LafargeHolcim is also one of the pioneer companies in implementing sustainable activities, which are implemented through different aspects in their corporate strategy.
  • In 2003, The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction (formerly Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction) was created with the aim to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and construction have in achieving a more sustainable future.
  • “The 2030 Plan” – The LafargeHolcim Sustainability Strategy covers Climate, Circular Economy, Water and Nature, People and Communities.


I am talking with Bernard Mathieu, He will be one of our key note speakers at our next Seminar.  He is Head of Sustainable Development at LafargeHolcim. Bernard has 19 years of experience in cement, concrete and aggregates businesses – in various positions: technical marketing, environmental coordination, mergers and acquisitions and sustainable development, within HeidelbergCement and LafargeHolcim. Bernard also held various positions with national and European sector associations and as lecturer for universities in Brussels and Liege (Belgium).

Bernard is chemical engineer from the University of Liege (Belgium) and holds a Management Degree from the ICHEC Business School in Brussels.

Bernard Mathieu

Bernard Mathieu


LBN: LafargeHolcim is a leading global company in the implementation of sustainability. Could you please tell us why is Latin America relevant for your global Sustainable strategy?

Bernard Mathieu: LafargeHolcim has a strong presence in 10 Latin American countries. We are proud to say that our Latin American subsidiaries are top performers in CO2 efficiency (CO2 per tonne of product) thanks to their efforts in the recovery of waste as raw materials for fuels. Many subsidiaries in the region have been recognized for their sustainability performance.

One of our core missions is to help the people on modest incomes to gain access to proper housing and infrastructure at the most affordable cost. The Group offers a wide range of innovative solutions for the construction, renovation and extension of affordable housing and its financing.In each of these countries, we also aim to build long-term relationships with all our stakeholders, to optimize our use of resources and to develop tailor-made solutions with sustainable products and services… Finally, a consistent and ambitious sustainability approach is – in Latin America even more than in other regions – a key success factor to attract, hire and retain the best workforce.

LBN: How does the sustainable plan of LafargeHolcim considering the Latin American communities?

We have recently launched our global sustainability strategy, The 2030 Plan, and are now cascading it down to our regions and countries. The efforts of our Latin American operations will be a major contributor to our global social targets – building on their long experience in providing affordable housing solutions, in creating local employment and in supporting education and health of communities. We will enhance the exchange of experiences between our countries to maximize our positive impact.


LBN: Talking about big constructions projects, Brazil had recently the Football World Cup and the Olympic; we also learn that LafargeHolcim just opened a new state-of-the-art line at its cement plant in Barroso, Brazil. What role is LafargeHolcim playing in the sustainable activities in Brazil?

LafargeHolcim was a major contributor to the construction of the Olympic Village and was also involved in transportation and urban infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of the Galeão Tom Jobim International Airport, the 4th line of Rio’s underground system and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), including the Transcarioca and Transbrasil projects. Our high quality product standards built the foundation of durable construction solutions for these important infrastructure projects.

The new cement plant in Barroso is the most modern in Brazil and its construction is part of the Group’s strategy to reduce cost per tonne of cement produced, while improving quality and efficiency, in order to operate profitably. There are also strict environmental controls to ensure lowest achievable emission levels. In Barroso – as well as in all its other plants -the Group is active with community initiatives, concentrating on health, safety, quality of life and income generation.

Furthermore, our local management promotes affordable housing in the country. Together with partners it offers financing programs and provides technical support and hands-on training of masons.

LBN: Give me an example of one challenge /opportunity that LafargeHolcim has identified for this project in Latin American?

Identifying and addressing our social impacts is vital to managing risk, maintaining our ‘license to operate’ and demonstrating sustainability leadership. Our management systematically identified business-related human rights impacts across the Region, to mitigate risks and to create opportunities. A regional human rights champion was trained in the LafargeHolcim methodology to support the implementation and review of results across Latin America. Depending on the underlying risk level of a country, a self-assessment or a full Human Rights Impact Assessment was carried out.

Stakeholder engagement was an integral part of the process. The assessments considered various indicators relating to employment practices (including contractors and suppliers) and community impacts. The assessments have involved over 180 consultations with more than 1000 stakeholders so far and are still ongoing.

Action plans addressing priority areas were developed; to ensure that all identified business-related human rights risks were properly managed. These action plans are regularly reviewed and the assessments will be repeated after three years.

LBN: Are there some advises you could mention for SME’s looking to implement sustainable initiatives in Latin America? 

  •  A long term strategy is essential – with clear objectives and deliverables.
  • The projects undertaken must be sustainable in the long term and must fulfill a real need
  • Go beyond philanthropy – engage with the communities / entities you want to benefit to generate the highest mutual value. There should be a clear link to the business – and ideally there should be a tangible business case for undertaking the project
  • Work in partnership with others who have specialized knowledge and similar agendas. This plays to each partner’s strengths, spreads the cost and resources needed and allows the leveraging of resources from more than just one entity and amplifies the impact and the scale of the project.