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To CEMEX, SDGs Mean Affordable Housing for Millions

Samuel Northrup headshotWords by Samuel Northrup
Energy & Environment
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The Mexican multinational building materials company CEMEX says it is doing its part to contribute to the United Nations 2030 agenda by aligning its business model with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 1998, CEMEX has been providing consulting and affordable building materials to low-income families across Latin America through its forward-thinking housing program, Patrimonio Hoy (PH). To date, the company has helped 600,000 families — roughly 2.7 million people — build their own affordable, practical housing.

Since the U.N. developed the SDGs in 2015, CEMEX has aligned PH with SDG 1 (No Poverty) in hopes of improving quality of life for low-income families and communities around the world. CEMEX has also been able to address SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals) as a result of its deployment of PH.

“Our main focus at Cemex is always our stakeholders, client community and employees,” said Henning Alts, PH’s head of marketing who spoke during the fourth edition of the 3BL Media webinar series “Aligning Business With the Global Goals." “Through these main stakeholders, we are searching for a process and a concept of co-creation where we obviously want to listen to our stakeholders, minimize the impacts [of cement production], and we are also always looking for value creation and well-being.”

CEMEX’s PH strategy, Alts explained, is centered around four key steps: a saving-credit system with fixed pricing; weekly payment plans without any specific requirements; technical assistance and consulting for the building process; and comprehensive delivery and storage of building materials.

As a result, the company says this process creates a “win-win situation” by providing sound, affordable housing for low-income families in marginalized urban communities while also offering a viable business strategy.

“We are an inclusive business, which means that we have developed a market-based solution for housing needs of low-income families,” Alts said. “We are trying to improve the quality of life through better housing conditions, and this also leads to an empowerment of these people.”

For CEMEX, it is critical to evaluate the impact of programs like PH in order to determine progress towards the SDGs, Alts explained.

To quantify its impact, the Mexican cement giant has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA), which was established in 2008 at the United Nations to help member companies measure and manage their impacts in the “inclusive business ecosystem,” explained BCtA impact special Rabayl Mirza.

Following a three-year study of 21 companies across five sectors, the BCtA was able to identify and better understand the priorities of companies like CEMEX in the impact reporting process.

“Measurement is at the heart of the Business Call to Action as there can be no work towards the SDGs without demonstrating impact,” explained Mirza, who spoke alongside Alts during the October 17 3BL Media webinar. “For the last three years, our modus operandi has been to work one-on-one with our member companies to help them understand, prove and improve their impact.”

As companies like CEMEX look to continue their positive impact on the global community by prioritizing “high social return,” companies need to implement comprehensive reporting in order to make their impact known.

“We have an impact on communities, on these people, but this needs to be documented and communicated,” Alts said. “It doesn’t help us if we are doing good things but we [do not have data and documentation to show it].”

Image credit: CEMEX

Samuel Northrup headshotSamuel Northrup

Samuel Northrup is a marketing intern for 3BL Media. He is currently attending Utica College, where he is working toward a degree in journalism while serving as editor in chief of his college’s newspaper, The Tangerine. When he’s not pulling all-nighters studying or copy editing, Samuel enjoys cheering for his favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills.

Read more stories by Samuel Northrup