Documentation: sustainability in the cement industry

 2002, VDZ, the Socio-political Working Group of the German Cement Industry (SPADZ) and the trade unions Industriegewerkschaft Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (IG BAU) and Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE) founded the Initiative for Sustainability in the German cement industry. The social partners together drafted the Documentation “Sustainability in the Cement Industry”, which summarises the principles and fields for future action in regards to sustainable development within the cement industry. Now, ten years later, a revised edition evaluates the social partners’ collaborative projects and supplies updated figures and facts related to sustainable development within the industry.

Jobs in the cement industry

Following a phase of heavy job cuts up to 2004, a survey of the period since 2005 shows highly stable and secure employment conditions in the cement industry: the number of jobs has hardly changed since then, fluctuation and temporary employment is low, job tenure is high. Overall, the image is one of a capital-intensive, state-of-the-art process industry in which the staff bear a high level of responsibility in monitoring and controlling production. The high average age of the employees also illustrates the demographic evolution within the cement industry. The industry’s businesses therefore afford qualification, i.e. education and training, substantial importance. However, the intense search for and support of junior staff, together with the adjustment of working conditions to an ageing labour force, will present an enormous challenge to the industry in future. The industry is primarily composed of integrated cement works with a typical workforce of between 100 and 250 employees. Compared with the remaining branches of the producing industry, the average gross wage lies in the area between the top and the second 20 percent.

Sustainable transport and logistics chains

In total, about 1.3 percent of Germany’s entire goods traffic are connected to the production and shipment of cement. Before this background, an industry survey (2002 and 2008) collected detailed data on the transport and logistics structures of the German cement industry. Among other things, the results supply insights into the function, importance and usage of the incoming and outgoing shipments’ individual means of transport (road, rail, river freight). At the same time, options for optimisation of the modal split and for reduction of empty journeys are indicated. 

Information and education tools

Due to developments in process engineering and to the integration of environmental protection into production processes, the requirements regarding staff qualifications in the cement industry are constantly increasing. In this context, the project develops training content and methods that meet the requirements of long-term vocational training. A modular qualifications range and state-of-the-art training methods such as e-learning facilitate on-site training at the plants. The information letters focus on topics that are of particular importance in terms of sustainable development in the cement industry, for example increased ecological efficiency and climate protection. A slide show presentation supplies informative material for multipliers to use in in-house training courses. In-house workshops offer the staff opportunities to establish approaches for resolving current topics themselves, thus actively contributing to sustainability. The info papers explaining process engineering correlations also take into account aspects of ecologically sound production.

Project “integrated resource and environmental protection management”

After two-and-a-half years, the pilot project “sustainability indicators for integrated resource and environmental protection management” was completed in Schelklingen (Baden-Württemberg) in 2008. The research project is an important part of the Initiative for Sustainability in the German cement industry and supplies scientifically sound solutions for further optimising the balance between obtainment of resources and protection of the environment. 

The project was sponsored by HeidelbergCement Technology Center, the Federal German Cement Industry Association, the Socio-political Working Group of the German Cement Industry and the team of biologists at the AG.L.N. (office for landscape planning and environmental protection management). The project was implemented from July 2005 until December 2007 and was subsidised by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 

In discussing sustainable development, innovative approaches for protecting biodiversity play an ever more important role, both in Germany and at international level. Although quarrying resources for cement production presents a substantial intrusion into nature and the landscape, quarries can also fulfil – even when still in use – an important function in terms of environmental protection and wildlife conservation: thanks to their specific site characteristics, they often offer a habitat for rare and endangered animals and plants which can nowadays be found almost nowhere on cultivated land. 

The pilot project therefore aimed to develop indicators facilitating the measurement of a quarry’s biodiversity. The project developed a range of indicators for flora, fauna and habitat classes that is tailored to the specific conditions and potentials of quarries in order to allow the requirements of both industrial quarry operations and environmental protection to be met. The project tested these biodiversity indicators in the Schelklingen quarry operated by HeidelbergCement AG and also researched different processes for recording diversity of lifeforms and habitats (monitoring). The findings were used as a basis for so-called Biodiversity Action Plans that comprise targeted measures for preservation and protection of biodiversity. Finally, the indicators were also examined in regard to potential interfaces with environmental protection instruments such as eco-accounts. 

The project results were discussed with the representatives of businesses and associations, including those from other sectors of the minerals industry, and with stakeholders from politics, environmental protection and trade unions. The European Commission intends to make use of the project’s findings in its development of recommendations for biodiversity protection in connection with industrial production.


Manuel Mohr

Manuel Mohr

+49-30-2 80 02-100

+49-30-2 80 02-250



Initiative for Sustainability