UN Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a coherent, holistic and integrated framework for addressing the world’s most urgent sustainability challenges and creating a better future for all. Governments are primarily responsible for prioritising and implementing actions that meet the SDGs, but achieving them also requires collaboration with business and civil society.

With less than ten years remaining to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Holcim is committed to accelerating its impact across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is transparently disclosing its progress. While all the goals are relevant to Holcim, as the world’s global leader in building solutions, there are 9 in which we can make an enhanced contribution through our strategy and actions on the ground. These are highlighted in the wheel below.

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This goal aims at the eradication of poverty in all its forms. This includes improving the resilience of the vulnerable and poor to economic, social, and environmental shocks and disasters. The provision of essential infrastructure and services is key to lifting communities out of poverty.

Our contribution

Sustainable infrastructure is essential to achieving this goal. As a building material, concrete has an important impact in terms of durability, resilience and cost effectiveness. It is key to reducing the vulnerability of the poor to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change through stronger structures able to withstand earthquakes, wind and flooding and providing effective shore protection measures. It additionally enables large-scale provision of affordable shelter to millions of people.

With our wide geographic presence, technical know-how and close connections with the communities in which we operate, we play an important role in disaster recovery. In addition to providing immediate food and medical relief, teams of skilled artisans from our plants repaired damaged houses to help people return home from the transit shelters.

Our presence in many geographies, often as the largest employer within a community, means we play an important role in providing fair and safe work which is a powerful long-term approach for driving economic growth and eradicating poverty. Over the last 5 years we have invested over CHF 200 million in creating positive social impact.

We additionally contribute to each country's GDP by purchasing goods and services from the national market (92% of our supplier base is local).

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This target aims to ensure all people have access to enough food to end both hunger and malnutrition. This involves promoting resilient and sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farming, improving agricultural productivity, and protecting equal access to land, technology and markets. Strengthening the resilience, sustainability and adaptive capacity of agriculture – and particularly small-scale agriculture – is therefore the critical element in ensuring the world can feed itself.

Our contribution

Apart from the significant economic benefits we bring to rural communities through jobs, support for local traders, taxes, and charitable donations, we also boost the income of local farmers through sustainable agriculture projects and the procurement of residual agricultural biomass as an alternative fuel.

We support employability and entrepreneurship in local communities with training, education and other services such as water provision and micro irrigation for communities. We build durable and resilient roads in agriculturally productive areas (e.g. banana-growing regions in Ecuador). Those solutions increase the lifespan of roads by up to three times, leading to significantly less food lost in transport.

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This goal has a focus on raising global well-being and health standards, including improving maternal and infant mortality rates, lowering disease rates and reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by road traffic accidents, and illnesses caused by pollution, poor sanitation and hazardous chemicals.

Our enhanced contribution

We contribute to this goal through the provision of decent housing, clean water and sanitation, affordable energy and accessible healthcare – all of which are vital components to health and wellbeing.

Health and safety is our core value, from the daily routines in our plants to our example on customers’ work sites and the actions we take in our communities. Our aspiration is to conduct our business with zero harm to people and to create a healthy and safe environment for our employees, contractors, communities, and customers.

With many employees living closer to our facilities than to the nearest hospital, we’re fulfilling our duty to support the health of our communities. We own and manage 66 health clinics across 18 countries and they serve nearly 250,000 of our employees’ dependents and other community members.

We drive a health and safety culture throughout our “Global H&S Days” involving employees and stakeholders at every level - managers, contractors, drivers, customers, suppliers, distributors and local communities. This is a period of strong mobilization for all our stakeholders to help us achieve our health and safety ambitions.

We are also comprehensively addressing road safety issues. Since the start of our road safety program we have reduced the number of road fatalities by 77% - a notable achievement considering that we cover over two billion kilometers per year and 100,000 trucks are on the road transporting our products at any given time.

An example of extended commitment to health is our project in Songwe, Tanzania, where we provide clean and safe water for household use. This helps reduce the number of cases of waterborne diseases. Holcim purchases the water from the local water supplier, treats the water at its plant and then distributes it to the community.

The company has continuously considered the health aspect of the project and ensures that water is treated according to the standard water quality specifications before it is distributed to the community.

COVID -19 has brought unprecedented challenges. Protection and promotion of the health and well-being of Holcim personnel and communities is the focus of our response to the pandemic. We currently enforce a range of global and local measures to protect our teams and contain the spread of the coronavirus and prepare our sites.

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This goal aims to ensure that all children, adolescents and adults – especially the vulnerable and marginalized – have equal access to education and training appropriate to their needs.

Our contribution

Skilled workers are fundamental to our success. Training and education – particularly in science, technology, engineering, and maths – are vital for the development and continued success and growth of our company. The challenges of adapting to meet new standards of sustainability and technological change highlight this need further, especially in areas where such skills are in short supply. To meet this need, the company invests in workforce education, talent pipeline development programs and education projects in the community.

Our local operations offer a multitude of vocational training opportunities to young people. Topics include industry-relevant knowledge as well as general skills for young entrepreneurs to secure a better livelihood.

Holcim currently finances two university chairs advancing sustainable construction and engages in a network of more than 40 universities globally. In 2021, we had 14 PhDs under our mentorship to foster education in sustainable design and construction.

The Holcim Awards, the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design, has a dedicated “Next Generation” category for students up to 30 years of age. The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction invites students to “Awards Labs” for next-generation practitioners and offers Research in Practice Grants to fund and mentor outstanding postgraduate research on sustainability.

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This goal advocates equal opportunities for men and women in economic life, the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, and equal participation at all levels - seeking to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls.

Our contribution

We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace. Holcim is an equal opportunity employer and actively promotes diversity and makes no distinctions on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. In an industry traditionally not seen as attractive to females to pursue a career, we actively promote gender diversity through awareness training, recruitment campaigns, development programs and support groups. In our journey to increase the diversity of our workforce, we are pleased to see our efforts recognized through local or international acknowledgements, such as EDGE certification. In a 2021 survey conducted among 85,000 women in 40 countries, Holcim ranked among the top 250 Forbes World's Top Female Friendly Companies. Holcim has committed to the UN Women's Empowerment Principles and has a target that 25% of its senior management will be women, by 2025.

Many of our operating companies are actively addressing gender diversity, and action plans are developed to drive a better balance. This starts from recruiting practices and continues through training and support programs, amongst others, focusing on Female Leadership Development. We have projects designed to proactively attract female talent to our industry, and offer participation in trainee or graduate programs and supporting them as they progress in their career with Holcim.

Another example is our “Women on Wheels” program. The programs in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria and Mexico are aimed at recruiting women drivers, training women with no prior trucking knowledge and developing women entrepreneurs, helping them to set up their own transport company. We are currently extending this program globally.

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The aim of this goal is to achieve equitable and universal access to affordable and safe drinking water and sanitation. Included in this is the improvement of water quality through the reduction of pollution and increasing efficiency of water use to address water scarcity.

Our enhanced contribution

Water is a critical resource for our cement and concrete production. We take an active approach to managing water usage to lower consumption, increase recycling, reduce pollution and protect water-related ecosystems and other industries that rely on water, such as agriculture.

Concrete has a vital role to play in the building of a resilient and sustainable water infrastructure. This infrastructure includes dams, reservoirs, stormwater management systems and flood protection. Holcim provides a number of such solutions which reduce the use of water and also reduces flooding.

We are committed to replenishing the freshwater we use in water risk areas and restoring it to an equal or better quality, whilst promoting efficient water practices in all our sites. We implement water stewardship in our own operations and beyond, working in partnership with relevant stakeholders, to the benefit of communities and nature.

Hoclim has committed to reduce its Freshwater withdrawal intensity and has committed to reduction targets in all segments.

Holcim is a signatory of the WASH Pledge, an initiative led by WBCSD and WASH4Work. We commit to taking action on WASH across our value chain, including among our suppliers, as well as in the communities that surround our workplaces and/or where our employees live.

We also endorsed the CEO Water Mandate, which is a UN Global Compact initiative that mobilizes business leaders on water, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals. With the endorsement we are committing to show continuous progress on our water stewardship actions.

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This goal aims at the provision of broad access to reliable, modern and affordable energy services. This means improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix

Our contribution

Concrete has a key role to play. From geothermal projects and wind turbine foundations, concrete’s strength, durability, and resilience to climate-related and natural disasters make it an essential building material for much energy-related construction. This helps ensure communities have access to a reliable and secure energy supply. We are innovating to promote new energy sources, from specific cements for deep geothermal wells to 3D-printed bases for building wind towers up to 200 meters in height.

We have increased our own use of alternative fuels. In some of our operations, we’ve met 100% of our energy requirements with alternative fuels. These alternative energy sources not only help reduce our CO2 emissions, they also divert waste from incineration or landfill.

As part of our net zero roadmap, we aim to reduce our indirect energy-related emissions by 65% by 2030 vs. 2018.

We will continue to lower our energy consumption (which has increased three times less than our cement production since 1990) by investing in technologies such as waste heat recovery. We currently operate five waste heat recovery units in four countries and will double the number of installations with investments across six sites in India.

We are increasing the use of renewable energies such as wind and solar by partnering with local power producers to install wind turbines and solar panel farms around the world.

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“We are also committed to reduce CO2 in our supply chain (Scope 3 emissions) with an initial focus on transportation and fuels.”
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This goal targets sustainable economic growth, increasing economic productivity and creating decent jobs. It envisages combating forced labor and ending modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030. Sustainable economic growth should not be to the detriment of the environment, and the goal also advocates improved global resource efficiency in consumption and production and the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation.

Our enhanced contribution

Our presence in many geographies, often as the largest employer in a community, means we play an important role in providing safe, fair and decent work. We are also a supplier of choice, contributing to economic growth and decent work in our supply chain. In addition, our many community and job creation projects play a positive role.

The creation of essential infrastructure – and the development it underpins – relies on construction materials like concrete. Concrete is essential for engineered heavy structures such as windmill foundations, bridges, dams, high-rise buildings etc. Specific binders (such as road binders for sustainable rural roads), aggregates (such as blocks for protecting dykes) and/or precast solutions (such as for immersed tunnels) are all critical products for infrastructure development. Durability is of the essence, especially with regard to climate-related and natural disasters. Cost-effectiveness and widespread availability are paramount. All these qualities are found in concrete - the most consumed material in the world after water. Concrete continues to provide the foundational elements needed for economic growth while delivering significant sustainability benefits.

We have several initiatives in place to improve the efficiency of resource use. We currently replace more than 12 million tons of virgin materials and fossil fuels with recycled products and recycle 6.5 million tons of Construction and Demolition Waste. The main goal of our circular economy strategy is to decouple our economic growth from the use of virgin resources.

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This goal targets the development of reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure – either new or by upgrading aging or inadequate existing infrastructure. It also aims to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization. Supporting these aims, it calls for greater investment in industrial innovation and R&D.

Our enhanced contribution

Construction materials are key enablers of resilient and sustainable infrastructure development. These materials have an important impact in terms of durability, resilience to climate change and cost-effectiveness. Through greater investment in research, innovation, and technology, industrialization can be decoupled from global carbon emissions growth, helping achieve our climate action goals.

Together with our partners, customers, and academic researchers, our best-in-class R&D teams develop the most innovative products, solutions and services, as well as advanced manufacturing processes. Holcim Research & Development (R&D) is driven by our customers, who face today’s major challenges: achieving energy efficiency, lowering cost of construction, reducing the environmental footprint of construction, and meeting high standards of aesthetics, health, comfort, and well-being.

More than 80% of the time spent by our researchers in our Technology Center in Switzerland and in our Research & Development Center in Lyon, France is dedicated to low-carbon products and sustainable solutions, with 65% of our patents currently in this area. Our network of local labs spans five continents and a variety of in-house expertise: chemists, physicists, engineers, architects, masons and more.

We innovate to make infrastructure more sustainable, from preserving natural resources when building roads to providing solutions that protect coastal areas from rising sea levels to enabling ultra-high towers for more powerful windmills using 3D-printing.

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This goal aims to reduce inequality by targeting higher-than-average income growth for the bottom 40% of national populations, as well as eliminating discriminatory practices based on age, gender, sexuality, disability, rate, ethnicity, religion, or economic status.

Our contribution

The equitable provision of basic infrastructure and services is an important element in the reduction of inequality, supporting economic activities that can improve the incomes of the bottom 40%. As a durable, cost-effective and widely-available sustainable building material, concrete is vital to the construction of such infrastructure and therefore to promoting economic growth, including among the most vulnerable groups, such as the very poor, women and girls, and those living with disabilities.

As an important employer and economic contributor to the countries, regions and communities in which we operate, we also play an important role in achieving the SDG 10 goals - through equal training, fair and transparent hiring practices, paying decent wages and professional development opportunities.

Several initiatives of Holcim, such as affordable housing, further contribute to reducing inequality.

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This goal targets the development of sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban areas. Included in this is access to transport, adequate affordable housing and other basic services. It also aims at improving air quality and waste management and resilience to natural disasters.

Our enhanced contribution

By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities - and this urbanization brings challenges. While cities occupy only 3% of the Earth’s land, they consume 60%-80% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, with waste disposal also an ongoing societal issue.

Concrete construction is the backbone of safe, resilient and sustainable urban development. The material is locally available. It is used for small and mid-sized residential buildings and is the basis for affordable, high quality and durable housing. Concrete is the construction solution of choice for high performance applications such as high-rise construction as well as low-carbon infrastructure.

Concrete is one of the most resilient building materials available, able to withstand climate related and natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.

Our products such as green concrete EcoPact and Basalton Quattroblock are at the heart of efforts to improve the sustainability and resilience of the urban environment. ECOPact is currently available in 24 markets globally and we have a target that 25% of our ready mix sales in 2025 will be ECOPact. Quattroblock is one of our sustainable solutions that protects shores and dykes from flooding or sea-level rising, inspired from natural basalt columns, resistant to very strong waves and designed with ecology in mind, enabling, for example, the hosting of young birds with no danger.

In a large number of locations, Geocycle, our sustainable waste management solutions business, supports the sustainable management of municipal waste through co-processing refuse-derived fuels in the cement kiln, a process that also reduces the carbon intensity of cement and is therefore key to producing carbon-neutral concrete.

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This goal aims at the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. This includes the substantial reduction of waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. It also encourages companies to include sustainability information in their reporting cycle and promote sustainable public procurement practices.

Our enhanced contribution

Concrete is a durable and long-lasting construction material. Buildings made from concrete have a longer lifespan than those made from other construction materials.This means concrete structures are often more resource efficient.

Holcim is already a world leader in recycling with 54 million tons of materials recycled across our business this year. Our goal is to recycle 75 million tons by 2025 and 100 million tons by 2030.

The circular economy starts by avoiding waste. It benefits business, society and the environment by eliminating waste and decoupling business growth from the consumption of the world’s finite resources.

We follow the circular economy's three principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to build more with less and preserve our ecosystems.We reduce buildings’ material use and footprint by empowering smart design and technologies like 3D printing for affordable houses and schools, and innovative flooring systems. We build for no waste, using only the materials that are needed and nothing more.

Our construction solution portfolio also favors a circular economy. For example, our Agrovial solution in Latin America is a specially developed hydraulic binder for stabilization of soils and rural roads that is both cost-effective and innovative, making roads that are more durable for pedestrian, animal and vehicular use. Another example is that we aim to find other ways to use local soils as construction materials for road foundations or ground stabilization through the use of customized binders, preventing exploitation of virgin materials.

We also offer solutions for remediation of soils polluted by organic compounds like Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), which can be toxic for fauna, flora and people. Our advanced modified hydraulic binders allow us to permanently mineralize the pollutants. After treatment, these soils can be reused in various applications (agricultural, residential or earthworks).

With our Sustainable Procurement program and Supplier Code of Business Conduct, we take social and environmental factors into consideration alongside financial factors in making procurement decisions and building partnerships with suppliers for innovation in products and processes.

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This goal addresses climate change with calls to rapidly decarbonize the global economy as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C with an ambition to keep it below 1.5°C. It additionally aims to strengthen global resilience to climate-related hazards and natural disasters.

Our enhanced contribution

Leading the way in green construction, Holcim was the first global building materials company to sign the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” initiative, with intermediate targets approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in alignment with a net zero pathway.

Building on this early commitment, Holcim is the first company in our industry and among the first companies worldwide with net-zero targets for 2030 and 2050 for the full scope of our emissions, validated by the SBTi. Our 2050 targets and pathway are the result of a collaboration with the SBTi on its ‘Net-Zero Road Test’ working towards the science-based target setting methodologies, tools and guidance for the cement industry.

Beyond our 2030 targets, Holcim is preparing the future today by piloting more than thirty projects in carbon capture,utilization and storage, in line with our target to operate at least one net-zero plant by 2030. Working with other multinationals as well as start-ups, the pilots are evaluated in terms of cost, technical feasibility, compatibility with CO2 usage opportunities and other aspects of viability and scalability.

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This goal advocates significantly reducing all kinds of marine pollution and minimizing ocean acidification caused by the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere. It also aims at the protection of delicate marine and coastal ecosystems.

Our contribution

The preservation of marine habitats is a pressing global issue, requiring urgent and innovative solutions on a major scale. With the majority of reefs under threat from human activity, artificial reefs are important to restore the complex undersea ecosystems. Concrete’s durability in marine environments makes it an ideal material with which to build artificial reefs - and we are partnering with Egis/Seaboost to enhance marine biodiversity through various solutions. Holcim has patented a concrete mix design and placing process specifically designed to allow a rapid colonization by a great diversity of local marine animals and plants.

Moreover, coastal protection is paramount for a durable blue economy as around 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones. That number is expected to increase to one billion by 2050, and our product “Quattroblock” contributes to protect them.

We are actively helping prevent ocean pollution from plastics and other wastes through our collection and use of refuse-derived alternative fuels in the cement manufacturing process before these reach the ocean. For example, our Bubble Barrier project, a solution that keeps plastic waste out of rivers while letting ships and fish pass through, is being deployed in several countries.

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This goal targets the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of land and inland freshwater ecosystems. It also includes the combating of desertification and sustainable forest management. It additionally targets the prevention of further loss of biodiversity.

Our enhanced contribution

The production of both cement and concrete relies on the extraction of raw materials, particularly limestone. This has an impact on the surrounding natural environment that can be successfully addressed and mitigated through effective and progressive quarry rehabilitation plans.

Our operations are thus strongly linked to natural resources and our business plays a key role in tackling biodiversity loss and degradation. We work with nature in a transformative, rather than traditional way. By capitalizing on natural processes, endemic species and local adaptation, we strive to take into account the wider landscape and conservation context.

At Holcim, we commit to making a measurable positive impact on biodiversity backed by science based indicators in our sites and managed land, helping to protect natural ecosystems and the livelihoods of those in neighboring communities. We will achieve this by working in partnership with local stakeholders, who understand the local ecosystem,ensuring a positive contribution to biodiversity and the communities who rely on nature for their livelihoods and quality of life.

We will define our biodiversity level baseline by implementing a biodiversity measurement methodology Biodiversity Indicator Reporting System (BIRS) developed in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in all our managed land. Additionally, the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) tool will be used to support us to prioritize actions in high biodiversity areas.

We signed the Call to Action of Business for Nature, which brings together influential organizations and forward-thinking businesses seeking to reverse nature loss. We are also a member of the Concrete Sustainability Council (CSC), supporting the only worldwide industry-specific system to certify the sustainability performance of concrete plants and their supply chains.

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This goal aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies. As such it advocates significantly reducing all forms of violence, ending the abuse and exploitation of children, and reducing the illegal arms trade. To ensure that societies are peaceful and inclusive, this goal also aims to promote inclusive institutions and the rule of law, and guarantee equal access to justice.

Our contribution

We commit to doing business transparently, and to uphold laws, regulations and institutions wherever we operate. This includes conducting business in a safe, fair, and trustworthy manner, with the utmost respect for human rights, the environment, and the communities in which we operate.

Acting with integrity and living the right behaviors is critical to fulfilling our role as a good corporate citizen. Integrity is therefore one of the core values we have defined as a building block for our corporate culture that describes who we are, what we do and how we behave. Our Code of Business Conduct ensures that all directors, officers and employees share Holcim's commitment to conducting business with integrity, and provides guidance on how to put this commitment into practice.

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This goal aims to build partnerships and mobilize resources to provide all countries the means to achieve sustainable development. It calls for better collaboration on finance, technology, trade, and capacity building, as well as well-functioning mechanisms for knowledge transfer to avoid duplication of work and promote learning from experience.

Our enhanced contribution

Meeting the SDGs is not possible through the isolated actions of a single company and requires collaboration to ensure success. We work with a large number of organizations and institutions to drive sustainability solutions and create impact at scale. We engage with stakeholders at all levels, from local to national to global.

To name a few, Holcim is a founding member and is included in the steering committee of the Global Alliance for Building and Construction, which was launched at COP21 to accelerate climate action in our sector. Holcim also partners with the Science-Based Target initiative to develop a roadmap for aligning climate targets to a 1.5°C future in the cement sector, the first of its kind. The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, which was created in 2003, pushes the boundaries of construction by organizing international expert symposiums and the Holcim Awards – the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design. To scale up our impact on affordable housing across developing countries,Holcim and CDC, the UK’s Development Finance Institution, established a joint venture called 14 Trees, which focuses on production and promotion of affordable housing solutions. In order to tackle the rise in ocean plastic, Holcim’s Geocycle business has taken a lead in addressing this challenge by partnering with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on a project to stem marine litter.

To scale up our impact on affordable housing across developing countries, Holcim and CDC, the UK’s Development Finance Institution, established a joint venture called 14 Trees, which focuses on production and promotion of affordable housing solutions. In order to tackle the rise in ocean plastic, Holcim’s Geocycle business has taken a lead in addressing this challenge by partnering with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on a project to stem marine litter.

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