And so another year draws to a close. Along with making New Year’s Resolutions (and quietly dropping them in the endless, bleak dreariness of a northern hemisphere January), this is a time when it’s traditional to look back at the year just gone and take stock.
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The highly contagious elephant in the room is, of course, COVID. It’s still with us. The pandemic goes on. It’s true that a wide range of vaccines and other new treatments have made life safer and have brought a sense of normalcy for many of us, but stockpiling and export restrictions put in place by developed nations have resulted in a sluggish vaccine rollout across much of the developing world, slowing recovery and hampering economic growth.
Businesses, including those in the cement sector, have been quick to take on the challenge of working through pandemic conditions. Indeed, the nascent process of digitalisation in the cement industry has received a significant boost over the last two years. The benefits of digital technologies (either for communication, process optimisation, or a host of other reasons) became unavoidably apparent, as even the most technophobic were forced to get to grips with a wide range of new tools that had suddenly become essential. Quick Teams meeting, anyone?
Even World Cement has played a part in the push towards digitalisation, with our three annual conferences (EnviroTech, Optimisation, and WCT) broadcast live to audiences around the world, allowing cement professionals to network and share expertise, despite being separated by thousands of miles.
And then, of course, the other major trend seen across the world (and highlighted at COP26 in Glasgow just recently) is an increased awareness of mankind’s impact on the planet, and the urgent need to limit and, where possible, reverse the damage done. Whilst the agreements made at COP26 might not have achieved the much-coveted target of limiting global average temperature rises to 1.5°C, the cement industry continues to promote and pioneer solutions for reaching net zero.
Major cement industry players (producers and equipment suppliers alike) have committed to a range of net zero targets. FLSmidth, for example, continues to pursue its MissionZero sustainability programme, with the goal of providing a full suite of solutions to enable zero-emissions cement production by 2030. And Holcim, the world’s largest producer, has laid out a comprehensive path to net zero, with its targets validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative.
That leaves us looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, and wondering what the future holds. Typically, the answer varies depending on who you ask; The World Bank predicts global economic growth of 4.3%, non-profit research organisation, The Conference Board, is slightly less optimistic with a figure of 3.9%, and Nostradamus has allegedly forecast a cataclysmic asteroid impact.
Here at World Cement, we’ll limit ourselves to simply wishing you a happy and healthy new year.