Texan by Nature is excited to recognize CEMEX as a 2022 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. CEMEX’s commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Industry and Size: Construction – Enterprise
Company Overview: CEMEX is a global building materials company that provides high-quality products and reliable services while remaining dedicated to building a better future through sustainable products and solutions. CEMEX is committed to achieving carbon neutrality, adopting some of the most ambitious sustainability goals in our industry, and relentlessly pushing to innovate through leading research and development. CEMEX offers cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and urbanization solutions in Texas and in growing markets around the world, specifically targeting CO2 reduction throughout its operations and value chain. In addition, CEMEX is a key contributor to the circular economy, increasing the use of waste and residues as alternative fuels in its operations and capitalizing on opportunities to incorporate other low-emission fuel sources. CEMEX USA has been repeatedly recognized for its efforts in sustainability and energy management, earning U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for four consecutive years with recognition in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
CEMEX received a Conservation Certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council for biodiversity conservation efforts
What is CEMEX’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
At CEMEX, we are committed to building a better future and part of that is addressing the pressing issue of climate change. As one of the world’s largest building solutions providers and the largest manufacturer of concrete in the western world, climate action is a priority for our company, and it has been for years. CEMEX remains committed to leading the industry in climate action because it creates sustainable value for our company and society. CEMEX’s climate action strategy, “Future in Action,” guides our progress towards becoming a net-zero CO2 company through actions such as investing in energy efficiency, increasing the use of alternative fuels, expanding our use of renewable energy, improving water conservation, promoting biodiversity, and increasing the use of alternative cementitious materials such as fly ash, slag and pozzolans.
Our climate action strategy is founded on our commitment to pursue environmental excellence and embed sustainability into everything we do. At CEMEX, we dedicate significant efforts to address key sustainability-related issues. In Texas, we are investing in sustainable initiatives through such activities as utilizing alternative fuels and raw materials, investing in supporting habitat restoration. Our vision to Build a Better Future for all our stakeholders can be achieved only by acting responsibly and transparently—while caring for our people, our communities, and our natural resources. CEMEX invests directly and through collaborative relationships to fulfill this vision.
Two examples of those collaborative relationships are the 33-acre Balcones Dry Comal Creek Wildlife Center (CEMEX Nature Center) at the CEMEX Balcones operations in New Braunfels, Texas, and the El Carmen Land and Conservation Company (ECLCC) which actively manages a 27,000-acre area of desert landscape in southeastern Brewster County, Texas. The land managed by ECLCC, located between Big Bend National Park and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, is brimming with incredibly diverse flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert; black bears, cougars, bighorn sheep, and hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds. The ECLCC, a partnership between CEMEX and Mr. Josiah Austin, has a mission to restore the Chihuahuan Desert landscape and protect ecological corridors in a transboundary conservation area connecting west Texas and northern Coahuila, Mexico. This conservation area connects with the El Carmen Nature Reserve along the Rio Grande Corridor in Coahuila, Mexico, which is managed by CEMEX’s Mexico operations.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of CEMEX’s business strategy?
Sustainability is one of the fundamental pillars of our business strategy at CEMEX because it is crucial when creating lasting value. CEMEX embraces our responsibility to join the collective action to address global societal challenges such as population growth, poverty, climate change, resource scarcity, and biodiversity loss. Our sustainability model guides our business priorities to address these needs in a way that will positively impact the world through creating shared value. On top of our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), CEMEX is a founding member of the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition, a group of global companies dedicated to driving demand for zero carbon technologies. CEMEX is working toward ambitious goals to cut CO2 emissions in its cement business – targeting reductions of 35% by 2025 and 40% by 2030 when compared to 1990 levels. Our company is also committed to ensuring that at least half our ready-mix concrete and cement sales are linked to solutions with superior sustainability performance by 2025 while working toward delivering net-zero CO2 concrete globally by 2050. In Texas and around the world, CEMEX aims to increase its already strong implementation of biodiversity and water action plans through investment in water conservation at our plants and quarries in water stressed areas and extensive conservation efforts at our quarries and El Carmen Land and Conservation Company.
What are CEMEX’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
CEMEX has sustainability woven into its business strategy and incorporates it as a fundamental principle in all functions across our business lines. This strategy helps manage risks and coordinates environmental, social, and financial demands while relying on a solid governance framework.
In order to achieve the ambitious goal of becoming a net-zero CO2 company by 2050, CEMEX has set numerous intermediate targets, such as reducing CO2 emissions from cement by 35% by 2025 and by at least 40% by 2030 globally. CEMEX is currently working to achieve its 2025 goals that emphasize emission reductions, sustainable construction, biodiversity, and a strong commitment to the circular economy. We also implemented our Future in Action program to support and drive progress on our journey to carbon neutrality through six strategic pillars: sustainable products and solutions, decarbonizing our operations, circular economy, water & biodiversity, innovation & partnerships, and promotion of a green economy.
CEMEX is striving to ensure that at least half of our ready-mix concrete and cement sales are linked to solutions with superior sustainability performance by 2025, including our Vertua® lower-carbon concrete. In addition, CEMEX continues to uphold its commitment to biodiversity programs with our longstanding partnership with the ECLCC and our Balcones Wildlife Center at our operations in New Braunfels. The company is dedicated to the circular economy, actively seeking opportunities to use alternative fuels in the cement manufacturing process. Alternative fuels are predominantly non-recyclable materials and waste or by-products from industrial, domestic, agricultural, and forestry processes which contain recoverable energy—including used tires, processed municipal solid waste, and biomass residues, such as hulls from nuts and wood chips. By diverting these materials from landfill for use as energy sources, CEMEX reduces its use of fossil fuels and helps avoid greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, that these materials might generate through decomposition in a landfill.
A pollinator garden at the CEMEX Balcones Nature Preserve
Who in CEMEX is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at CEMEX?
CEMEX attributes the success of its conservation efforts to partnerships and internal sustainability stewards. In Texas, CEMEX collaborates with universities such as Texas Tech University, local educators and students, conservation experts, and NGOs, along with a variety of governmental agencies to select activities that best meet the needs of the given region’s biodiversity challenges, ensuring that we contribute to areas of greatest conservation need.
Internally, the following individuals are integral to the success of CEMEX Texas’ conservation efforts:
CEMEX employees participate in a wide range of conservation and education projects, highlighting the company’s continued commitment to sustainability. Our voluntary conservation programs and education projects are designed to align with important needs and priorities in our communities. The CEMEX Nature Center in New Braunfels is an outdoor classroom that provides an alternative learning environment where employees and students can discover Texas’ delicate ecosystems. We provide a multi-disciplinary approach to learning by providing meaningful habitat-based educational opportunities. Teaching STEAM in an integrated manner has been shown to improve student academic achievement, motivation to learn, and self-efficacy. Students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting can thrive when learning shifts to an integrated outdoor STEAM experience. CEMEX employees volunteer to conduct these programs at our Balcones sites, as well as for conservation-related events within the community.
In addition, the CEMEX Nature Center includes a wheelchair-accessible vegetable garden with raised beds for the benefit of PEACE, a United Way Partner organization serving adults with varying mental and physical abilities. The vegetable garden allows PEACE group members to learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare their own food while enabling CEMEX to give back to the community by donating portions of the harvest to local shelters. In 2021, PEACE group members harvested over 5,600 pounds of produce from the vegetable garden.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does CEMEX lead and participate in?
CEMEX participates in and leads several sustainability and conservation projects across Texas that preserve water, land, and wildlife while it continues to contribute to the circular economy by substituting alternative fuels, where possible, in place of fossil fuels.
Our Balcones operations in New Braunfels have been integral in supporting Texas construction projects since 1968, and they incorporate sustainable programs to help conserve resources and retain the land’s biodiversity. The cement manufacturing plant and large stone-producing quarry sit on approximately 3,000 acres within two ecological zones, the Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie.
At Balcones Quarry, CEMEX has gone above and beyond to conserve water, building and utilizing a state-of-the-art water recycling system that saves more than one billion gallons of water annually compared to water consumption prior to its implementation. The system, which began operating in 2016, has reduced the operation’s water withdrawals from the two underlying aquifers, including the Edwards Aquifer, by up to 90% per year. On an annual basis, the system saves enough water to supply the entire city of New Braunfels for 130 days.
At our Balcones Cement Plant, CEMEX participated in a feasibility study on the implementation of carbon capture technology, which is expected to be an important contributor toward CEMEX’s goal to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete globally by 2050. The initiative, partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, studied the potential CO2 emission reduction by utilizing new membrane technology in the plant’s production process at a minimal cost. The study concluded earlier this year.
CEMEX’s Balcones operations are also home to the company’s Balcones Dry Comal Creek Wildlife Center (CEMEX Nature Center). The 33-acre center, which includes 20 acres of dedicated open space adjacent to the quarry and cement plant, increases the site’s biodiversity, promotes environmental stewardship, and provides educational opportunities for students and teachers. The sustainable space features a restored prairie with native plants and grasses, a pollinator garden, a Texas grass garden, an educational center, and a wheelchair-accessible vegetable garden with raised beds. In 2021, CEMEX’s Balcones Operations earned the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Silver Certification for its conservation programs.
CEMEX’s sustainability commitment extends throughout its operations across the state and the U.S., with energy efficiency and conservation initiatives. CEMEX USA earned the 2022 U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award —Sustained Excellence, marking the fourth consecutive year the company has been recognized by the ENERGY STAR® program. In addition, CEMEX Balcones Cement Plant integrates alternative fuels like woody biomass and scrapped tires as a means of recovering energy, reducing greenhouse gases, and promoting a circular economy.
A constructed wetland for resident and migratory birds
CEMEX USA continues to support land and wildlife conservation with the El Carmen Land and Conservation Company (ECLCC), a partnership between CEMEX and Mr. Josiah Austin with a mission to restore the native desert landscape and protect ecological corridors along the Texas-Mexico border. The ECLCC consists of approximately 27,000 acres of desert landscape in Brewster County. The strategic location along the Rio Grande provides vital protection for the free movement of wildlife. The ECLCC has constructed a permanent wetland and five large food plots planted with native grasses, wildflowers, and plants with abundant seed production to provide food and water sources for migrating birds. In addition, the partnership is growing and transplanting native cottonwood trees to re-establish them along the Rio Grande corridor.
ECLCC and Texas Tech University (TTU) are also collaborating onsite on several scientific projects, including the impacts of climate change on zoonoses, pathogens, and wildlife hosts; the ecology of bats along the Rio Grande border and how water sources affect their distribution; and genetic uniqueness of mammal fauna, estimating the black bear population size using non-invasive DNA sequencing. An artificial bat cave prototype has been developed onsite that could serve as a model for bat conservation in many areas of the world. During the summer of 2022, students from the university were brought to ECLCC to learn field ecology methods as part of their studies.
“Sustainability and conservation are of critical importance for the future of Texas and society. At CEMEX, our Texas colleagues are proud to be recognized for practicing and promoting these principles. As we continue to embed sustainability in our strategy and operations, we look forward to continuing to be a good steward of the natural resources in Texas and beyond while helping shape a greener world.” – Jerae Carlson, CEMEX USA Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Communications and Public Affairs.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will CEMEX play in that progress?
As the world continues to take major steps to address and prevent climate change, CEMEX pursues opportunities to deepen our focus on sustainability through multiple means, including conservation activities that go beyond what is required and are recognized by leading environmental organizations. Understanding the importance of these actions, CEMEX follows and is committed to the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) Sustainability Guidelines for Quarry Rehabilitation and Biodiversity Management. In addition, CEMEX continues its conservation efforts at ECLCC and its Balcones operations by implementing conservation programs that earn recognition from credible organizations such as Texan by Nature and the Wildlife Habitat Council. Recognition by third parties helps ensure the programs continue to evolve and provide future benefit for the planet. Our conservation activities provide a valuable opportunity to engage employees and local communities in wildlife enhancement initiatives. These initiatives foster awareness of how industry and natural habitats can coexist. As such, protecting biodiversity and the environment is fundamental to our commitment to carrying out our activities sustainably.
How does CEMEX quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
At CEMEX, we recognize the deep value of nature, its lasting impact, and the importance of conserving biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services to allow for sustainable development of society. We invest and promote programs that conserve and, where possible, enhance biodiversity in our operations. Our programs include biodiversity action plans (BAPs) in quarries located in high biodiversity value areas, and water action plans for our locations in high-stress water areas.
As part of our Climate Action Strategy, we strongly support the role that natural carbon sinks can play in reducing the total CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Our quarry rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation efforts enable CO2 removal and enhance these natural carbon sinks. Similarly, El Carmen Nature Reserve, CEMEX’s 346,000-acre biodiversity reserve located on the U.S.-Mexican border, stores around 11 million tons of biologically sequestered CO2, equivalent to 30% of our annual worldwide CO2 emissions. Going forward, we aim to continue the expansion and protection of these natural carbon reservoirs.
The economic valuation of ecosystem services is a useful tool to support conservation because it makes explicit the importance and close relationship between the integrity of nature and human welfare while providing environmental services with a monetary unit that enables comparison with other goods. Following this premise, research was conducted to estimate—through the contingent valuation method—the value that society gives to environmental services provided by the biodiversity and landscape of El Carmen Nature Reserve. This research indicates that the value society gives to the biodiversity and landscape found at El Carmen is approximately US$60 million per year. Considering the annual CO2 sequestration and capture process, this value increases to US$70 million per year.
CEMEX Balcones Nature Preserve raised beds garden
What is the one lesson that CEMEX has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
CEMEX has learned that our efforts in this space bring many positive benefits even beyond those for our natural environment because conservation and sustainability resonate with everyone. CEMEX strives to further our conservation programs as a source of pride for our employees and a way to engage the communities where we operate. In order to facilitate a strategic and continued focus on conservation and sustainability efforts, CEMEX has implemented a community engagement tool to enrich the company’s outreach efforts to local communities where we operate. We understand that CEMEX’s commitment to embedding sustainability into our operations through implementing process and technology improvements in our plants and facilities may not always be evident to external stakeholders. However, CEMEX views our community outreach efforts, such as the myriad of evolving conservation programs, as a way to tangibly communicate CEMEX’s commitment to sustainability.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for CEMEX?
CEMEX’s operations and products have been integral to the construction of major projects across Texas for decades. While our operational footprint stretches coast-to-coast from California throughout Texas and into Florida, in Texas alone, CEMEX employs more than 1,200 people, which account for 15% of the company’s U.S. workforce. The company’s strong Texas network includes a corporate office, one cement plant, 7 distribution terminals, two strategically located quarries, and more than 20 ready-mix concrete plants. The state’s rich diversity and vibrant economy make Texas a great place for the heart of CEMEX’s U.S. operations.
Learn more about CEMEX’s conservation and sustainability efforts here:
In addition, Cemex employees logged more than 200 hours volunteering at over 30 external community events and safely hosted two large in-person events at the facility.
CEMEX has invested $13 billion in high-quality abatement techniques, including projects to measure air emission reduction.
CEMEX reduces the use of local water sources by 90% compared to water consumption before implementing CEMEX’s water recycling system. The state-of-the-art water recycling system was also designed for recycling 12,000 gallons of water per minute
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