Greenfutures reports: The British Cement Association's first sustainability report sets some tough targets for the industry. But they're all the product of a thorough discussion with those affected by it. And that, believes CEMEX, is what gives the work its weight.

Not so long ago, the idea that businesses should carry out a regular audit of their environmental performance provoked outrage amongst die-hard industrialists, who believed that a company’s responsibility was to its shareholders alone. Fast-forward to 2006, and we have seen a phenomenal sea change.

Sustainability reporting is a burgeoning industry in its own right, and now encompasses not just environmental impacts, but social and economic dimensions as well. However, while the reports are ever more thorough and sophisticated, so are the expectations of the stakeholders. When a few clicks online can uncover revealing home truths, companies need to make sure that the information they give will stand up to sceptical scrutiny. This is especially true of those sectors which are, rightly or wrongly, seen as problematic from an environmental point of view.

Cement might be something which we all benefit from, but the industry which produces it is rarely labelled an environmental ally. That’s the backdrop against which the British Cement Association (BCA) prepared its first sustainability report.

“We wanted to make sure that the report wasn’t just developed by the industry itself,” says Martin Casey, the BCA’s external affairs director, “but in collaboration with its stakeholders – so that it matched their aspirations.”