Corporate Environmental Responsibility:
An investigation into the performance of CEMEX
Environmental protection is currently one of the most pressing social issues; it features on the agenda of many different groups within society, including governments, special interest groups and global organisations. The actions of organisations with regard to the environment are becoming a large factor in their total profit and propensity for future growth. CEMEX is the third largest company in global cement and aggregate production; and the world’s leading supplier of ready-mix cement. Their annual production levels of cement and aggregate are approximately 55 million cubic metres and 160 million tonnes respectively. They have operations spanning across thirty three countries, currently employing 44,104 people and have an annual sales figure of US$15.14 billion (CEMEX 2012). The stakeholders that are of focus in this paper are the neighbouring communities of the production plants and the many employees of CEMEX. The production of cement is one of the most environmentally unfriendly practices in the world. During production, there are a number of environmental problems; CEMEX has a number of policies and procedures in place to combat their significant environmental impacts; but the damage to the environment and their negative impact on stakeholders is significant, and because of this, the benefits of CEMEX’s positive contributions are often over shadowed. The case against CEMEX.
In 2006, CEMEX displayed a lack of commitment to stakeholders, when they were fined a record £400,000 after hazardous cement kiln dust escaped the production plant in Rugby, and spread approximately seven tonnes of hazardous cement kiln dust across houses and cars up to five kilometres away (ENDS Report 2012). This is not the only fine CEMEX has received due to violations of Air Quality Legislation. In 2008, CEMEX was fined $1.5 million for five separate clean air act compliance issues at the production plant in Lyons (Miller 2009). The release of toxins and particle matter is a contributing factor in ailments such as asthma, emphysema, heart disease and other respiratory conditions (Georges 2011). In a study of emissions from a Nigerian cement plant, high quantities of toxic heavy metals such as Nickel and Zinc were found in the surrounding soil (Olaleye, Oluyemi 2009). The high levels of toxic heavy metals have the possibility of causing heavy metal poisoning. Heavy metals are absorbed by the body through air, food and through the skin. Once inside the body, they compete with and displace important minerals, causing system and organ failure (Medical Dictionary 2012). This has significant implications on the neighbouring society, but also the employees at cement production plants, as they too are exposed to harmful toxic emissions that can have many adverse medical conditions. The release of cement kiln dust does not only affect the human population surrounding production plants. As cement kiln dust contains many toxic elements; including heavy metals such as fluoride, magnesium, lead, cadmium, nickel, zinc, copper, beryllium, there are harmful effects on surrounding aquatic eco systems. The toxic elements also have significant effects on flora and fauna due to the disturbance of metabolic compositions. Some species that are particularly sensitive to pollution cannot grow in areas with excessive cement kiln dust emissions; and are gradually becoming endangered in areas surrounding cement production plants (Erdal, Demirtas 2010). This is a significant problem that CEMEX faces, as once a species are extinct; they cannot be replaced nor resurrected.
The case for CEMEX
In order to combat the problem of CO2 emissions, CEMEX has introduced a variety of strategies. As mentioned previously, the burning of fossil fuels in kilns is a large contributor to the total CO2 released. CEMEX has implemented the use of state of the art kilns; which heat using...
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