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Getting the Numbers Right

World Cement,


As a central element in meeting our infrastructure needs, the cement industry also has a key role to play in sustainable development. Over the past decade, the industry has taken steps to ensure that it manages its impacts on the environment and communities, through the implementation of various mechanisms with which it can, in the first instance, measure and monitor these footprints, and then better manage them.

Among these issues, carbon emissions has always been an important focal point. In order to report on the industry’s emission levels, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) has developed a benchmarking tool that provides the relevant information to allow the industry to monitor and compare its performance across regions, year-on-year. The Getting the Numbers Right (GNR) database provides aggregate anonymous data gathered from a large sample of cement producers, across various countries and regions.

The world’s most comprehensive industry emissions database

The GNR database is a voluntary, independently managed global information database providing accurate, verified data on the cement industry’s CO2 emissions and energy performance. Using a common protocol for measuring, reporting and analysing the data, it is the most comprehensive public database in operation for any industry worldwide. The data is published as a set of web-based reports for all global regions and selected countries, which can be viewed for free by interested parties.

Now in its 6th year of publication, the database was set up with the objective of informing interested stakeholders about the CO2 and energy performance of the cement industry in a uniform and verified way. It allows these stakeholders, including producers, trade associations, policy-makers, academia and NGOs, to understand not only the industry’s current performance, but also its potential for future improvements.

An important element of the GNR system is transparent availability of aggregated statistical information while guaranteeing confidentiality of individual company data and information. Participating companies can only see the aggregated results from across the industry and the performance of their own installations compared to the regional industry statistics. Participating trade associations can see the aggregated statistical results of their region, but not the data from individual installations and companies. No information on individual companies or plants is disclosed or accessible to any viewer outside the respective company itself. The database is managed by an independent third party service provider, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). External verification and assurance ensures that the GNR remains a reliable and independent source of information. This also means that rather than undertaking comparisons between individual companies, the cement industry is able to set broader benchmarks and reduction targets.1

A sectoral approach

The CSI is a strong advocate of a sectoral approach to climate mitigation. Sectoral approaches consist of a combination of sectoral policies and measures developed to enhance effective and efficient greenhouse gas mitigation within a UN framework. Producers and their host country governments adopt a set of emissions goals, which may vary by country, or take other coordinated action to help combat climate change. It offers them the ability to tailor the management of emissions and efficiency goals to local circumstances and capabilities.

Whilst a global response to emissions reduction is preferable, the CSI believes that, by building on national priorities and pushing forward existing emissions reduction efforts, this approach can more effectively facilitate a large-scale response to climate change.

In order to implement it, a database is required to collect accurate and verifiable information on CO2 and energy performance at sector level, from which sectoral performance metrics can be developed. This information needs to be based on a consistent measurement, reporting and verification system to be aligned to a global market if required in future.2

A common methodology

To allow for the collection and submission of consistent information, the WBCSD and World Resources Institute worked to develop the world’s first Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. From this, the CSI developed the CO2 Accounting and Reporting Standard for the Cement Industry, which provides a common language, set of definitions and harmonised methodology for calculating CO2 emissions, with the aim of reporting them transparently. The protocol addresses all direct and the main indirect sources of CO2 emissions related to the cement manufacturing process, in absolute as well as in specific, unit-based, terms.

The benefits of GNR

Benchmarking of the cement industry using the GNR system provides various benefits for stakeholders. A key benefit for cement companies is that it can help to drive internal performance improvements. The information gathered can be used by producers to manage their energy and CO2 levels, track the factors, levers and changes in technology that can impact emissions, and put in place suitable strategies to improve performance.

The GNR provides trade associations with credible, externally verified information from across the industry to support their research and discussions about climate and energy policies and potential impacts with respective governments. It facilitates a better informed assessment of the influence of various factors, including kiln technology and fuel selection, on global and regional performance and emissions management. For policy-makers, it provides a clear and up-to-date picture of the cement industry’s emissions, giving them a firm basis for setting emissions benchmarks and working towards reductions.

The European Cement Association (CEMBUREAU), joined the GNR process in 2007 and has since benefited from the information supplied by the database, which it believes has enabled the European cement industry to engage in meaningful, evidence-based dialogue with its European stakeholders on climate change issues. Over 95% of cement manufacturing installations in Europe are reporting to GNR. The Inter-American Cement Association (FICEM-APCAC) joined GNR in 2011 and promotes the participation in GNR of non-CSI cement companies in Latin America.

What is the future for benchmarking and the industry?

The 2010 GNR data covers 930 individual facilities producing 827 million t of cement – 25% of global production.3 Whilst the CSI has done much to encourage industry participation in the GNR, efforts are still underway to grow involvement in regions where there is currently less coverage. With increasing participation from companies from across the world, the database is able to provide even more accurate and aggregated information about emissions and energy performance in the sector.

The CSI believes that, as the monetary value of carbon emissions grows and trading schemes expand, the use of benchmarking tools, such as the GNR, will become more commonplace in business planning and risk assessment. While the CSI’s GNR database and CO2 Accounting and Reporting Standard are currently the most comprehensive tools available worldwide, it is hoped that similar approaches can be developed and applied in other industries, with the aim of setting global emissions benchmarks and reduction goals in the future.


  3. Competition law concerns recommend a one-year lag time in the publication of information.

For more details about the work of CSI, please visit the CSI website at or read its latest publication, the CSI 2012 Progress Report at

Written by Philippe Fonta, Managing Director, WBCSD CSI. This article is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the September 2012 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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