In 2008, global cement production stood at 2.8 billion tonnes, up 3.4% from the previous year. The growth mainly stems from emerging economies which are striving to meet their rapidly growing demand for housing and infrastructure.
The cement industry plays a major role in meeting society's needs for housing and infrastructure. Cement, the glue that holds concrete together, is a key ingredient of economic development. Concrete becomes our offices, factories, homes, schools, hospitals and roads, as well as our underground water and drainage pipes, bricks and blocks, and the mortar that bonds them together. None of these things could be built without cement. There is currently no other material that can replace cement or concrete in terms of effectiveness, price and performance for most purposes.
Moreover, from 2010 onwards more people will be living in an urban as opposed to a rural environment. It is vitally important that the infrastructure that is put in place to support this is as sustainable as possible - buildings which can last a hundred years and which are highly energy-efficient. Concrete is at the present time the only building material capable of delivering on this.
However, cement production is also energy-intensive: it accounts for around 5% of global anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, and affects a wide range of sustainability issues, including climate change, emissions to air and water, natural resource depletion and worker health and safety.
Today, the challenge for the cement industry is to balance growing demand for cement with the need to forge a more sustainable cement industry.