International cement company Votorantim Cimentos has become Brazil’s first company to publish a series of environmental product declarations (EPDs), in the hope it will inspire other companies to do the same and start a benchmark for consumer decision-making, says guest writer Ian Yoshio Ohta Primo of Votorantim Cimentos. This case study mirrors the Australian progress and the services Edge offers in product verification and disclosure.
Global construction materials company Votorantim Cimentos began in 1933 with the construction of the Santa Helena cement plant in Votorantim in São Paulo, Brazil. It has 15,288 employees (at the end of 2015), and is the biggest and most profitable company in Brazil. Globally, it’s the seventh largest installed cement production company with a presence in 13 countries.
Most significantly, Votorantim Cimentos operates a Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP) based on sustainability trends, company vision and stakeholder expectations. One element of the SSP is the list of Sustainability Commitments for the year 2020, which are aligned to the company’s four strategic drivers: Safety, Ethics and Compliance, Eco-efficiency and Innovation, and Community Engagement.
An idea to differentiate from competitors
Discussions on EPDs began at the end of 2014, aligned to the Cement Sustainability Initiative (or CSI, a global effort by 25 major cement producers with operations in more than 100 countries who believe in the pursuit of sustainable development). At that time, the CSI, in partnership with a Swiss company, developed a life cycle assessment tool for the sector. We decided to use the opportunity to develop a pilot project that would be finished a year and a half later.
The EPDs production process required patience, organisation and commitment from all contributors, including internal and external consultants. Key to its success, the project had support from several areas of the company: environment, marketing, sales, processes, quality, logistics and R&D, especially during the stages of product selection and data collection. An Italian auditor specialising in life cycle management and environmental product declarations handled the verification process and registration on the International EPD® System program.
Sustainability in Brazil’s building sector
According to the 2016 study “World Green Building Trends”, the number of sustainable buildings doubles every three years, ranging from two to six times depending on the country. Brazil has the highest level of expected growth for sustainable buildings over the next three years (6% to 36% – an increase of six times the current value). This is a motivation and an opportunity for Votorantim Cimentos to participate in an emerging market.
Sustainability means meeting our growth ambitions while considering the current and future needs of society, by offering eco-efficient and innovative building materials and services to our customers, acting ethically and transparently in accordance with the law and regulations, providing an inspirational, healthy and safe working environment for our employees and supporting our communities, so they can thrive.
– Votorantim Cimentos
Barriers and opportunities in the Brazilian market
In terms of EPDs, the market for sustainable buildings is in an early stage – the implementation of a program operator and the product category rules (PCR) are still being discussed. We, as a company, are anticipating market demands and spreading the initiative across the industry so that EPDs become a common practice and a key comparison in consumer decision-making.
Votorantim Cimentos is the first construction materials company in Brazil to publish its EPDs in an international program operator. In addition, the company is encouraged to innovate, since the life cycle assessment indicates opportunities to reduce energy and material costs, identify potential optimisation of its supply chain, and encourages deep reflection on waste generation, management and disposal.
“We know that this initiative is only the beginning of a new sustainable economy aimed at transparency and eco-efficiency of products and service,” says Patricia Monteiro Montenegro, Votorantim Cimentos’ Environmental Affairs Manager.
Votorantim’s EPDs can be viewed here.