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5 Minutes… with Bernard Mathieu

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Cement,

Briefly describe your job.

I am an independent consultant specialising in the deployment of strategies and roadmaps to address crucial sustainability issues, namely climate change, circular economy, and biodiversity. One of my key current assignments is the coordination of the climate programme of the World Cement Association (WCA).

How did you start in the cement industry?

In 1996, as young chemical engineer, I started to work for CBR, the Belgian subsidiary of HeidelbergCement, where I was recruited as technical advisor, supporting the CBR customers in the use of cement and binders for environmental purposes. One of my first projects was also to find valuable solutions for bypass kiln dust from one of the clinker kilns. I then worked successively for HeidelbergCement, Holcim and LafargeHolcim as global Head of Sustainable Development.

What is your proudest career achievement?

I am extremely proud of the positive energy, commitment and enthusiasm which resulted from the development of the first sustainability roadmaps of HeidelbergCement (in 2008) and LafargeHolcim (in 2016), which I both coordinated. It was fantastic to see the engagement of all members of the respective sustainability teams and of so many employees, from subsidiaries around the globe, who actively wanted to contribute and deliver value for business, for society, and for our planet. It was a privilege for me to witness the very particular importance of social responsibility issues for our workers and employees: this helped me build a sense of purpose in my day-to-day work.

Who do you most admire – and why?

The most admirable persons are not always the best known. I admire those who dedicate their time and energy to improving the life of others through volunteering. As chairman of Engineers Without Borders in Belgium, I see the real difference this engagement can make.

What is your favourite food?

I am a gourmet, very curious and willing to discover new flavours and new cuisines. But when I need comfort food, my choice goes to Belgian grey shrimp croquettes topped with crispy parsley and accompanied by a good glass of white wine from Burgundy.

In your view, what is the biggest challenge facing the cement industry?

You will not be surprised if I insist on the crucial issue of the required transition towards a low carbon construction sector. I am convinced that our sector will be increasingly challenged by regulators, civil society, and other stakeholders about its impacts on climate and its commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the lifecycle of buildings and infrastructure. This is an existential challenge for the industry, which also opens massive opportunities for innovation, creativity and business success.

What strategies can the industry employ to solve this challenge?

The global deployment of waste coprocessing is an example. But an enhanced use of existing and new clinker substitutes, considerable improvement of material efficiency (through a better use of our products), innovation towards new types of clinker, cement, binders and concrete, and the development of projects around carbon capture and storage or carbon capture and utilisation, are all part of the solution. Tailored strategies should be developed by each company depending on its local context.

What do you see your role is in supporting the industry to meet this challenge?

As Director of the WCA’s Climate Programme, my role is to raise awareness among WCA members and to provide them with a platform to exchange knowledge about the latest technologies and regulatory developments. The WCA is also acting as a global voice of the industry towards global stakeholders.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am passionate about politics and very concerned about the ongoing rise of populism, intolerance, and nationalism across the globe. I am currently enjoying Yuval Harari’s latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which provides food for thought on how to possibly reverse these dangerous evolutions.

Where is the most interesting place you have visited – and why?

In 2017 I had the opportunity to visit the social projects initiated by the Ambuja Cement Foundation in the Gujarat province of India, close to Pakistan. A very emotional, rewarding, and meaningful experience, during which I met courageous men and women working hard to provide livelihood, resources, and dignity to their children.

What is your favourite place – and why?

I love Berlin. It is such a diverse and vibrant city where you can directly witness the tragic history of the 20th Century in Europe, as well an amazing artistic scene.

If you could meet any historical figure, who would you meet – and why?

Difficult choice! I have been honoured to meet Simone Veil, first President of the European Parliament, survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, who acted for peace, reconciliation and cooperation in Europe.

Do you have a final message for the industry?

I know this industry very well and the commitment of its employees to deliver solutions that enhance the quality of life of local communities all around the globe. The climate challenge adds another dimension to this mission: our industry must today aim at providing the building materials for a comfortable life… on a sustainably liveable planet. I am convinced that we will succeed by leveraging the creativity and entrepreneurship of our teams.

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European cement news Cement news 2018