People: Gerard Bos

24 June 2010 | Article

 In the last four years, Holcim and IUCN have worked together to build a better understanding of biodiversity in the building materials sector. On the occasion of the inauguration of the new IUCN Conservation Centre, we interview Gerard Bos – the IUCN relationship manager at Holcim – about Holcim’s participation in this project and the relationship with IUCN as a whole.

Three questions to Gerard Bos about the IUCN-Holcim relationship and the new IUCN Conservation Centre.

1. What are the main successes and future goals of the IUCN- Holcim relationship?

The IUCN - Holcim partnership has brought two organizations much closer together and created a new level of understanding among their staff. We start to speak a common language on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services and we develop together the tools, messages and ways to address this issue at local level.

Biodiversity is not that mysterious to Holcim operations anymore and the functioning of IUCN is better understood. We also feel better equipped to leverage on IUCN membership and network.

For IUCN we hope that our business decisions are better understood and we also helped IUCN in engaging more widely with the private sector.

But the first 3 to 4 years are only the beginning of a longer journey. Our future goals are ensuring the successful implementation of the biodiversity management system across all our operations in the 70 countries we operate.

We also would like to tackle new subject such as water and how to contribute to a wider sector engagement in biodiversity related activities. These goals are ambitious but ultimately we want to be able to say that, with the help of IUCN, “Holcim made biodiversity part of its business”.

2. What are the innovative features of the concrete used in the new IUCN Conservation Centre?

CO2-reduced concrete was used throughout the building. For this concrete, part of the clinker (manufactured in an energy-intensive kiln process) in the cement has been replaced with high-quality limestone. All aggregates and cement used in the concrete for the building were sourced and processed within a radius of twenty-five kilometers from the site.

Recycled concrete was used for all slabs except the foundation slab. This represents forty percent of the concrete used in the building. Recycled concrete is concrete made with crushed demolition concrete as aggregate.

The demolition material for the recycled concrete used in the IUCN Conservation Centre came from a building demolished a few kilometers from Gland. The recycling of rubble from demolished buildings not only helps solve the landfill problem, it conserves gravel as a natural resource. This is particularly important in this region of Switzerland, where gravel
supplies are dwindling.

Demolishing old buildings and reusing the material to create new ones can be repeated indefinitely, which is the essence of sustainability. But recycled concrete does have its limitations. It is not suitable for exposed applications where chemicals and freeze-thaw cycles can attack it. As usage increases, there will be shortages of demolition rubble. Recycled concrete
requires about five to ten percent more cement than normal concrete does, and the structural members, e.g. concrete slabs, may have to be somewhat thicker, depending on the structural system. The technology for recycled concrete is still developing.

3. How are sector based initiatives such as the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) and business associations contributing towards sustainable development?3

Sector based initiatives rather than individual companies driving the sustainability agenda can make a huge difference. It adds credibility in front of NGO and government agencies. Secondly it strongly accelerates the change mechanism. A lot of inertia is coming from the fact that companies will not move until competitors make the same move, especially when cost elements are linked to this with no rewards being offered by the market conditions. Consequently some “sustainable” changes never occur.

For the above reason the cement industry has taken the sustainability agenda very seriously with the creation of the CSI in 1999. More recently, similar initiatives have appeared at more regional level through trade associations. In Europe, biodiversity task forces exist within Cembureau (European Cement producers Association) and UEPG (European Aggregates Association).

The challenge remains that the building materials sector is fragmented and composed of many more and sometimes very small isolated players. Our duty is to convince that operating in a more sustainable manner and applying some of the practices the larger groups developed together with the conservation community partners is the best way forward to build a more sustainable future.

About Gerard Bos

Gerard, is a Dutch national, married with 2 kids, he has a degree in European Business Administration from the European Business School (Paris, London, Frankfurt) specialized in International Bank Finance.

Gerard started his career as a banker and worked 5 years for Barclays Bank mainly in London.

For the last 15 years he has worked for Holcim in Europe, USA and Africa, mainly in Procurement and Logistics functions before focusing on sustainable development.

Gerard joined corporate environmental relations at Holcim Corporate Office in 2007 as the IUCN relationship manager to establish a biodiversity policy and strategy at group level. He is also a member of the WBCSD ecosystems focus area.