Insider Perspective: 2017 Cement Sustainability Initiative Forum, "Growing together through the SDGs"

Published: 11 Oct 2017
Author: Yvonne Leung
Type: Insight

Last week the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)'s Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) held its 11th annual forum in New Delhi, India. The event focused on how, through sharing knowledge and experience, the private sector can capture and build on the opportunities offered by the SDGs and understand the risks of inaction.

The annual CSI Forum is the most important sustainability event for the cement industry., By rotating location in different parts of the world every year in the past decade, the CSI Forum allows our members to interact with partners and key stakeholders and also gives voice to local and regional participants. This year’s event was hosted by two of the leading India headquartered CSI members: Dalmia Bharat Cement and UltraTech Cement, in partnership with other Indian and global CSI members and the Cement Manufacturers' Association (CMA) of India. With about 100 participants from India and overseas, the event was a major platform for our stakeholders to get together and discuss issues the sector faces, notably how the sector can grow together with its partners through the SDGs.  

The SDGs provide a structured framework to further enhance the work that has already been done by the cement sector, mainly through the CSI collaborative approach. Mr. Philippe Fonta, Managing Director of CSI at WBCSD reiterated that fact while highlighting how CSI members are leading the way in sustainability by seizing the opportunities that collaboration creates.

Dr. René van Berkel was our keynote speaker, not only as the Representative of the UNIDO Regional Office in India, but also an old friend of WBCSD.  Dr. Berkel was lead liaison between WBCSD and the Australian business community from 1999 to 2006, at a time that also saw the creation of the CSI.

Dr. Berkel explained how the SDGs are “a bold plan” to address socio-economic, environmental and societal challenges of our time while leaving no one behind, that business leadership is crucial to this process and the UN calls upon all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges. 

The consensus in the room was that the CSI is a successful collaborative sectoral initiative, an example to be followed by other sectors. The participants of the Forum stressed that it’s essential to maintain this ambition, reinforce the collaboration at sector level even more, engaging our full value chain in a life-cycle approach to identify how we can come together to unlock and amplify the contribution that the sector and its stakeholders can bring to the realization of the ambitious 2030 agenda.

The CEOs of the two hosts - Mr. KK Maheshwari, Managing Director UltraTech Cement and Mr. Mahendra Singhi, Group CEO (Cement), Dalmia Bharat Cement - both stressed the importance of the Indian cement industry’s driving thought and practice leadership in the sustainability space; that the realization of such ambitious vision is no longer limited to public and private sector, but expand to a much wide scope of requiring every Individual to become a change agent for creating a better world.

Another highlight of the event was the engaging panel on Smart Cities which addressed the need to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable communities and infrastructure. In the panel, Mr. Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI, stressed the need to build safe and inclusive cities to sustainably cope with the increasing urbanization whereas Dr. Prem Jain, Chairman of Indian Green Building Council recommended to draw inspiration from the five elements of nature when planning the cities of the future. He mentioned that a smart city is a green, sustainable and safe city. Mr. Bernard Mathieu, Head Sustainable Development of LafargeHolcim, pointed out the need to build better cities and to provide transversal solutions to face the important displacement of population that the world will face. And Mr. Bill Sisson, Director of Sustainability of United Technologies Research Center presented the work that WBCSD is doing on cities, supporting local initiatives at global scale, promoting solutions that will help facing the challenge of the expected growth of cities.

Through open and constructive debates, breakout sessions examined and evaluated the new framework set up by the SDGs in tackling the sustainability challenges that businesses and societies must face together. Addressing inequalities, using resources in an efficient manner, integrating SDGs into reporting and frameworks for business, role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in achieving the SDGs were among the topics explored by the participants.

Mr. Philippe Fonta concluded the event by recognizing that the successful implementation of the integrated and indivisible SDGs will require collaborative efforts across all sectors of society at national, regional and local level. Building on the Forum discussions, the CSI will articulate a common vision, map the sector’s level of impact and collective contribution to the SDGs. 

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