‘Lafarge Africa is Only Company in Nigeria to Use Biomass as Alternative Fuel on a Large Scale’

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Lafarge Africa, a member of LafargeHolcim Group with global network presence in more than 50 countries on all continents, recently launched Geocycle services, a waste treatment and management activity that preserves natural resources and plays an important role in reducing the carbon footprint of the Group’s manufacturing plants. Geocycle is Nigeria’s first full-fledged alternative fuel business, and Lafarge Africa is the only company in Nigeria that uses biomass as alternative fuel on a large scale,Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, the Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability Director, Lafarge Africa, tells Bennett Oghifo

What is the significance of Lafarge Africa’s launch of Geocycle, as published recently in your company’s Sustainability Report?

Geocycle is the waste treatment and management activity of the LafargeHolcim Group, which has a global network that is present in more than 50 countries on all continents. Geocycle services preserve natural resources and play an important role in reducing the carbon footprint of the Group’s manufacturing plants. Geocycle is Nigeria’s first full-fledged alternative fuel business, and Lafarge Africa is the only company in Nigeria that uses biomass as alternative fuel on a large scale. The launch of Geocycle in Nigeria is a demonstration of Lafarge Africa’s commitment to Circular Economy as part of our Group, LafargeHolcim’s sustainability strategy, known as The 2030 Plan. Our ambition is to become the biggest private sector contributor to sustainable production, waste management and reduction of air pollution in Nigeria. The Geocycle brand therefore demonstrates our commitment to the sustainability of our planet’s future. As our Geocycle business grows, we contribute to cleaning our cities, maintaining the health of Nigerians and creating more jobs.

Tell us more about the recently published Sustainability Report

The publication reveals vital indices on our sustainability performance in the country and our innovative contributions to its economy. It reports comprehensively on our specific contributions to Nigeria’s development through our numerous Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects under four pillars: Health and Safety, Education, Shelter/Infrastructure, and Economic/Youth Empowerment, as well as the four pillars of our Group Sustainable Development strategy – the 2030 Plan: Climate, Circular Economy, Water & Nature, and People & Communities. Apart from covering our major strides in creating a sustainable future, such as the Geocycle and quarry rehabilitation projects, it also captures testimonials from our host communities about the impacts of our social investment in their community. In 2017 for example, Lafarge Africa created the Cement Professionals Training Programme (CPTP), a programme aimed at helping youths with entrepreneurial spirit achieve their goals in the fields of technology, engineering, cement manufacturing, instrumentation and automation. With just a year into the programme, more than 30 youths have been impacted. We are also currently supporting more than 300 undergraduates with bursaries in host communities.  

Lafarge Africa won four awards in the 2018 SERAS CSR-Africa Awards, the largest number received by any organisation. What are you doing differently or better than other organisations?

At Lafarge Africa, sustainability is an important part of our business strategy and our commitment to the development of our host communities is central to how we operate. Every year, we work with stakeholders including our host communities to identify Corporate Social Responsibility projects that will make the most impact and we execute them. Over the years, we have constructed school buildings, equipped health centers, provided educational bursaries for hundreds of indigenes and empowered youths with tools and resources to facilitate the economic development of their families and communities. The Company also encourages employees to invest work hours in giving back to communities through the Friends of Community, Lafarge Africa’s volunteering programme. This year alone, we have dedicated 4,150 hours to improving communities across Nigeria. 

You recently concluded the 5th edition of the Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition. Why did Lafarge Africa decide on a literacy competition?

Aimed at improving literacy in public primary schools across Nigeria, the initiative since its inception 5 years ago, has impacted over 600,000 pupils from 886 public primary schools in 544 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. A few years ago, Nigeria made news for being the country with the highest number of out-of-school children. This is worrying because an educated population is the foundation of any economy. Literacy has human, cultural, social, economic and political benefits and is increasingly crucial in the 21st century where economies are knowledge-based and lifelong learning is essential for long term development. This explains why countries work hard to educate their citizens. Responsible companies too, recognise the importance of education of which literacy is a key component. At Lafarge Africa, our corporate interventions in education include building and renovating classrooms, awarding scholarships, bursaries and grants, donation of desks, chairs and stationery, and of course the Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition. The National Literacy Competition sits under the People and Communities pillar of LafargeHolcim’s 2030 Plan and Goal 4 (Quality Education) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with our objective being to bridge the literacy gap in Nigeria. Literacy is indispensable to sustaining future generations of Nigerians and because sustainability is a core value of Lafarge, this is important to us. 

Your record states that over 600,000 primary school pupils across Nigeria have been impacted since 2014. Tell us how the National Literacy Competition works

The Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition is a very strategic literacy intervention designed to support the government’s efforts as it helps to improve reading, spelling and writing abilities of children in public primary schools. It is targeted at the most disadvantaged in the society and aims to bridge the literacy gap while also drawing attention to its scale and the need for curricular and co-curricular interventions from the public and private sector. The competition is run with the support of implementation partners including the Federal Ministry of Education, the Universal Basic Education Commission, State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB), the Ovie Brume Foundation, British Council, Oando Foundation and UNESCO. To give a sense of the impact in 2017 alone, 3,912 pupils from 886 public primary schools in 544 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria took part in 142 run-offs with support from 479 staff of SUBEB. Within this period, 202,390 pupils were provided with materials to improve their literacy with the help of 762 teachers. We are especially pleased that the competition was endorsed this year by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) for the impact it has made across Nigeria.