2 Minutes with our Affiliates – FICEM

We interview a CEO from one of our affiliate members on their organisation, priorities and challenges.

In this edition, we interview Maria José Garcia, Executive Director of FICEM.

Tell us about your organisation

The Inter-American Cement Federation – FICEM – represents 77 cement producing companies in 26 countries in the region, with almost 200 million tons of annual cement production in 289 plants. It also groups 16 cement and concrete organisations in the region, which positions it as the spokesperson for the promotion of the use of cement and concrete and the sustainability of the industry.

FICEM leads the efforts of the regional cement industry in the actions of the global cement agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mitigation and adaptation to the climate change, the deployment of the circular economy, the protection of biodiversity, and industrial health and safety. The above based on the exchange of knowledge, dissemination of good practices and promotion of regulatory frameworks, codes and studies for the sustainability of our industry, thus transforming us into the main collaborative work platform in the region.

To achieve our objectives FICEM works in alliance with different international organizations, such as CEMBUREAU, PCA, PWC, The American Concrete Institute and Inter-American Development Bank; and since 2019 we are active members of the GCCA facilitating the development and knowledge for the 26 countries of our region.

What are your aims in the year ahead?

The role of FICEM and the cement and concrete industry is oriented to the sustainable development of the region and to solve the challenges of poverty, infrastructure and housing deficits, reduction of CO2 emissions and vulnerability to the effects of climate change, as well as the social impacts of poor waste management. The objectives for the upcoming years are:

  • Finalise the Roadmap for a low carbon economy in Latin America and the Caribbean, respecting the particularities of each country and considering the vision of carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Support the GCCA in the construction and implementation of the concrete roadmap for carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Conduct research and studies with industry and universities in the area of sustainability to support industry in dialogues with local governments in the region.
  • Implement the initiative to replace dirt floors with concrete ones to reduce the housing deficit and reduce illnesses in children and the elderly.
  • Disseminate knowledge to industry and governments through specialised E-learning training.
  • To be the Latin American platform for the relationship between industry, institutes, associations, governments and universities.

What are the opportunities for cement and concrete in a post-COVID world?

COVID-19 has produced the deepest economic recession in nearly a century, disrupting economic activity and damaging health, welfare and employment. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean projected a historic drop in the regional economy of 7.7% in 2020 (the largest in 120 years) and the poverty rate was estimated to reach 33.7% of the population in 2020. This implies that the total number of poor people will reach 209 million by the end of 2020, 22 million more than the previous year.

According to the UN, the region will face a fragile and uneven recovery due to the long-term aftermath of the crisis.

The cement and concrete industry, as a strategic ally of the construction sector, plays a relevant role as an engine for the economic reactivation of our countries, where investment in infrastructure and housing is one of the first measures to kick-start economies.

What are the key challenges you are facing in your region and how are you solving them?

1. Development and Adaptation to Climate Change

We are a region with a great deficit of housing and critical infrastructure, and also with increasing levels of poverty. We are the second most vulnerable region to the effects of climate change, but with great opportunities to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas effects, through solutions based on nature and circular economy.

Solution: We are developing Roadmaps for our industry, which are capable of reducing our current emissions, but in accordance with the adaptation and sustainable development needs that the region requires, being innovative in the use of solutions based on nature and the recovery of waste.

2. Waste Problems

In our region less than 5% of the waste is recovered and even more worrying, 40% is being disposed of in the open air or in illegal burning, with significant impacts on health and the environment. In accordance with international organisations projections, this condition will not improve in the medium or long term, due to the concentration of population in cities and the lack of public policies that promote solutions based on the circular economy.

Solution: To position the cement industry as a key and cost-efficient player in reducing the generation and poor disposal of waste in the region, by promoting the durability of cement and concrete compared to other construction materials and the waste recovery in co-processing and as additions in cement production.

3. Heterogeneity in public policies in the region

With 26 countries in the region, great differences in development and public policies, added to the absence of regional governance, generates a high complexity in achieving standardised positions and regulations.

Solution: Continue developing our collaborative work platform, for governments, organisations and industry throughout the entire region; in support to research, innovation, regulations and required codes.

Tell us about a programme/initiative/Project that you would like to highlight

Notable projects include the Low Carbon Economy Roadmap and the FICEM C3 Calculator.

The Roadmap covers 90% of the region’s cement production and allows us to understand CO2 emissions by both region and country and to determine the levers required by country and company. The Roadmap has contributed to other projects such as: estimation of the region co-processing potential, impact of carbon pricing instruments in the sector, benchmarking analysis for industry and governments, and recently for the determination of the carbon neutrality strategy led by GCCA.

The FICEM C3 calculator as a tool allows to determine CO2 emissions in a practical, verifiable, transparent and comparable way and, in addition, it is used for the Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of CO2 at country, company and plant level being able to define the emissions, axes, strategies and monitoring to ensure compliance with the CO2 reduction goals that our industry requires.