The Top 5: Key Cement Manufacturers & Their Net-zero Goals

Highlights :

  • Two of the top 5 largest cement manufacturers in the world are from China
  • Cement manufacturers, like other energy intensive industrials, need to be leaders and not followers in the push for faster reduction of emissions. Lower renewable costs are just one reason, faster climate change impact is the far more urgent reason.
The Top 5: Key Cement Manufacturers & Their Net-zero Goals

The 20th century onwards has belonged to concrete in many ways. Alongside its strength and resilience, concrete is crucial and ideal for the building, being relatively cheap and simple to make. Each year 30 billion tonnes of concrete is used globally.

Although concrete structures are, in many ways, ideal for climate-resilient construction, it is also a source of significant carbon footprint – 8 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions as a result of the cement industry alone. Country-wise China was the world’s largest cement producer with over 2500 million tonnes of cement production in 2020. India and the USA rounded out the top 3 at 280 and 83.3 million tonnes in the same year. Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and Russia follow on.

Making the cement is carbon-intensive. It involves using fossil fuels to heat a mixture of limestone and clay to more than 1,400 °C in a kiln. In the process, about 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released against every tonne of cement produced.

Hence, there’s an urgent need to cut down the carbon emissions coming out of the cement industry. Global commitments to reach carbon neutrality around 2050 also prompted major cement manufacturers to aim for net-zero by then. Consequently, the GCCA 2050 Cement and Concrete Industry Roadmap for Net Zero Concrete was adopted in 2018. However, as always, we strongly believe that the sector, like any other energy intensive sector, needs to be a leader, not a follower when it comes to net zero ambitions. Considering the twin reasons of lower renewable energy costs and accelerating impact of climate change, 2050 might be too far ahead in the future to matter. 2035, and 2040 need to be the dates that matter to these firms.

#1 China National Building Materials (CNBM)

Country – China

Cement Production Capacity – 521 Mt/year

Net-Zero Target – N.A.

With an annual capacity of 521 Mt/year, CNBM tops the list of the largest cement manufacturers in the world. The Beijing-based company has total assets exceeding 460 billion yuan. CNBM is a public traded company. It engages in cement, lightweight building materials, glass fibre, fibre-reinforced plastic products, and engineering service businesses The company has a huge presence in cement and glass engineering services, accounting for 60% of the global market share. Chinese leader is also the largest producer of fibreglass in Asia.

In October, 2021, CNBM was one of the 40 of the world’s leading cement and concrete manufacturers, who have joined forces to accelerate the shift to net zero concrete, pledging to cut CO2 emissions by a further 25% by 2030. Cao Jianglin, CEO of CNBM, has assured publicly  that CNBM would play a part in decarbonising the cement industry. Though, there are still no clear targets set or major steps taken by the world’s leading cement manufacturer.

#2 Holcim

Country – Switzerland

Cement Production Capacity – 386 Mt/yr

Net-Zero Target – 2050

Holcim, formerly LafargeHolcim is one of the world’s largest cement manufacturers in the world with cement production across 180 production plants. The Swiss cement major has a presence in over 70 countries with has a presence in over 70 countries. The company has annual cement production capacity of 386 Mt/year. It also recently sold its 70 mtpa capacity cement division in India to the Adani group.

Holcim’s 2050 net-zero targets cover scope 1, 2 and 3 CO2 emissions – net zero target for Scope 1+2 emissions and 90% reduction target for Scope 3 emissions against 2020 levels. Also, Holcim launched sustainability-linked bonds in the Swiss franc market, raising a total of CHF 425 million. This represents the company’s significant step toward the goal under “Strategy 2025 – Accelerating Green Growth” to link over 40% of financing agreements to the company’s sustainability goals.

Holcim’s progress toward its 2025 sustainability targets seems commendable. These targets include – 25 per cent of ready-mix sales from ECOPact green concrete; 10 million tons of construction & demolition waste (CDW) per year recycled in its products and 75 million tons per year of recycled materials overall; and Green CAPEX of CHF 500 million per year by 2025. The firm has already sold more than 1 million metric cubes of ECOPact green concrete to date, on its way to 25% of ready-mix net sales by 2025. Furthermore, the company is scaling up circular construction, with a 17% increase in recycled materials, reaching 54 million tons in 2021 and 6.6 million tons of CDW recycled into new products.

#3 Anhui Conch

Country – China

Cement Production Capacity – 355 Mt/year

Net-Zero Target – N.A.

Anhui Conch (Conch) is an Anhui province government enterprise. It is one of the largest cement manufacturers in China with 355 Mt/year cement production capacity. Further, Conch is China’s largest cement exporter. The company had a 65.8m-tonne output capacity as of end-2021. Currently, Conch Cement has more than 160 subsidiaries in 18 provinces and autonomous regions in China, as well as Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and other foreign countries along “Belt and Road” Initiative.

Conch plans to spend CNY5 billion (USD791.4 million) in 2022 to build renewable energy power plants at its factories in order to meet the country’s carbon peaking and neutrality goals. This includes one gigawatt of installed photovoltaic capacity by the end of 2022, with a yearly generation capacity of 100 million kilowatt-hours.

#4 HeidelbergCement

Country – Germany

Cement Production Capacity – 187 Mt/year

Net-Zero Target – 2050

HeidelbergCement stands 4th in the list of largest cement manufacturers in the world and largest in the country. The German company boasts an annual Cement Production Capacity of 187 Mt/year. With the takeover of the Italian cement producer Italcementi, HeidelbergCement became the number 1 in aggregates production, number 2 in cement, and number 3 in ready-mixed concrete. HeidelbergCement Group (after acquiring Italcementi) has a presence at more than 3000 locations in over 50 countries on five continents.

The Group aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest. In that context, last year, HeidelbergCement signed the Business Ambition for 1.5°C Commitment, the global initiative that involves achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. HeidelbergCement also joined the global Race to Zero campaign. The campaign aimed to build positive momentum for the transition to a decarbonised economy.

The company aims to lower its Scope 1 emissions to below 500 kg of CO2 per tonne of cementitious material by 2030, a reduction of 33% from 1990. Further, HeidelbergCement is eyeing to reduce scope 2 emissions by 65% by 2030 from 2016. It also looks to collaborate with partners along the entire value chain in order to significantly reduce the supply and transport-related scope 3 emissions.

The firm is targeting up to 10 million tonnes of CO2 reductions with several CCU/S projects that will be under way by 2030. In June, 2021, HeidelbergCement expressed intentions to upgrade its facility in Slite on the Swedish island of Gotland to become the world’s first carbon-neutral cement plant. This would eventually help to capture 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from 2030 onwards. The firm is also building the world’s first full-scale installation for carbon capture at the Brevik cement plant in Norway. The project will help capturing 400,000 tonnes annually or 50% of the plant’s emissions from 2024 onwards.

#5 UltraTech Cement

Country – India

Cement Production Capacity – 119.9 Mt/year

Net-Zero Target – 2050

UltraTech Cement Ltd is the largest manufacturer of grey cement, ready mix concrete (RMC) and white cement in India. Moreover, it is, so far, the only cement company outside of China to have more than 100 million tonne capacity in one country. It boasts a 17 Mt annual cement production capacity. Mumbai-based firm has 23 integrated plants, 1 clinkerisation plant, 26 grinding units and 7 bulk terminals. UltraTech Cement is also India’s largest exporter of cement and export to countries around the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.

The firm committed to net-zero by 2050 along with intermediate goal of preventing 5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030. The firm commits to reduce Scope 1 GHG intensity by 27% and Scope 2 GHG intensity by 69% by 2032 from the base year of 2017. To walk the path of sustainability, the firm committed to complete biodiversity assessment for all of its integrated plants by 2024. It has also committed to double the energy productivity under the EP100 program of ‘The Climate Group’.

UltraTech is also a founding member of the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA).

"Want to be featured here or have news to share? Write to info[at]

Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.