Lafarge Africa Plc, being a good corporate citizen has successfully and consistently balanced its duty to shareholders and responsibility to society. A member of the Swiss building materials multinational LafargeHolcim, Lafarge Africa recently released its 2019 Sustainability Report and a look into the document reinforces the cement giant’s standing.
While maintaining a drive for strong financial performance, Lafarge Africa has in recent years doubled down on efforts to operate in an environmentally friendly manner while creating shared value and promoting inclusive prosperity for all stakeholders.
Operating in an energy-intensive industry with major environmental, health, and safety implications, Lafarge has a longstanding commitment to minimise the impacts of its operations on the environment to the barest minimum, just like its parent company. In 2020, LafargeHolcim became the first global building solutions company to sign the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” pledge with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), collaborating towards a net-zero pathway. Under the commitment, LafargeHolcim has lowered its target for CO2 intensity in cement by 2030.
Lafarge Africa’s success in incorporating sustainability practices into its corporate culture and excelling at it is down to a conscious effort enabled by a sound strategy that focuses on four thematic areas – Climate and Energy, Circular Economy, Environment, and Community – and mapped with 14 of the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Nigeria, Lafarge has significantly reduced carbon emissions (1.3% since 2018) and in 2019, recorded a 34% decrease in total specific dust emission compared to the previous year. This was achieved through several measures, including the installation of modern dust control equipment in its plants. Between 2018 and 2019, Lafarge improved its Ewekoro plant, replacing and overhauling some components to ensure that dust emissions are within statutory limits.
The company is also pioneering the recycling of waste as a source of energy and is solving the challenge of waste through its circular business model – Geocycle. In 2019, Lafarge derived 12% of its energy from waste and other biomass with over 300 farmers impacted through buying their agricultural waste. The company recently signed an agreement with the Food and Beverages Recycling Alliance (FBRA).
Additionally, Lafarge leads research in the use of alternative energy and the progressive substitution of carbon-emitting clinker with cleaner minerals in Nigeria and has also significantly reduced the risk of polluting water, often sharing and/or investing in providing safe water for the communities in which it operates.
This environmental commitment has informed biodiversity investment in several projects as well. In Ogun State, the IléDotun Project focuses on achieving land degradation neutrality (SDG 2015-2030 under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification) by restoring 108,000 hectares of degraded land belonging to forest and games reserves of Imẹko and Aworo in the state. Trees are carbon emission absorbers hence leveraging biodiversity to enable healthy ecosystems is fundamental to life on the planet.
Similarly, a five-year project is ongoing to improve the management of the Maiganga Coal Mine water via distribution and discharge through a constructed wetland system in several communities in Akko and Billiri Local Government Areas of Gombe State. The first of its kind in Nigeria, the project is being implemented to improve acid mine drainage and entrench a biodiversity hotspot in an arid area. The Magainga wetland will also deliver concrete economic benefits to over 2,000 residents with an irrigation system that will enable all-year-round farming, growing of economic crops such as mangoes and cashew, and improved access to water for over 1000 livestock.
Furthermore, Lafarge Africa’s sustainability teams from Ewekoro, Sagamu, Mfamosing, and Ashaka cement plants have embarked on intervention programmes directed towards healthcare, education, and infrastructure in their host communities. In 2019, Lafarge expanded its engagement with communities through 51 Community Relations Council (CRC) meetings, which culminated in Community Days where development projects were commissioned with traditional rulers and senior state government delegates in attendance.
Lafarge Africa also invested over N700 million in societal impact initiatives and projects under 4 core pillars; Health and Safety, Education, Shelter/Infrastructure, and Economic/Youth Empowerment, directly impacting over 115,000 beneficiaries within and beyond its host communities. As a testament to its community investments, the company provided fully-equipped medical facilities in Emuren and Olujobi communities while renovating and equipping healthcare centres in several communities – Mfamosing, OwodeEpota, Ajegunle-Ogijo, and Sagamu.
Within the coal mine communities in Ashaka, key projects were implemented including access road construction, provision of rural electrification, drilling of boreholes, construction of blocks of classrooms, construction of fully-equipped clinics and maternity centres, community training on soft skills, and provision of tools such as sewing machines, farm tools, etc.
Awareness programmes are also organised for indigenes of host communities such as health awareness sessions in Ashaka and Mfamosing and environmental awareness sessions in Ewekoro. These help to educate residents on issues around using safe and non-toxic building supplies, conserving water and energy, recycling and activism.
Lafarge Africa has over the years seen considerable success in corporate performance – not just in numbers but in social and environmental impacts. This, the company has achieved, by following through with a strategy that allows it to engrain sustainability into business decisions, processes, and practices. Further setting the precedence in sustainability leadership in Nigeria remains a top priority for the company.
Written by Michael Afonce