EDUARDO SAHAGUN, President & CEO, Holcim Philippines, Inc.
THESE days everyone seems to be talking about climate change and the need for companies to lessen their manufacturing footprint and nurture a culture of green. Most huge companies seem to care enough to do what they can to care for the environment in the communities they belong to.
But it’s not every day that one finds a CEO as passionate as Eduardo Sahagun going that extra mile to drum up awareness and support for a cause that literally translates to saving the world. After all, the industry he belongs to is a prime beneficiary of one of the finite resources this world has to offer ̶ cement. Sahagun is the president and Filipino CEO of Holcim Philippines Inc., the largest cement maker in the country. On the day of the interview, he launched along with some of his key executives, a new brand ambassador to help spread the important concept of helping the environment.
Holcim Philippines is involved in the manufacture, sale and distribution of cement to the domestic and export markets. It produces four cement products under the brand names Holcim Excel, Holcim WallRight, Holcim Premium Bulk and Holcim 4X. The company operates four cement plants in La Union, Bulacan, Misamis Oriental, and Davao.
The company is part of the Holcim Group, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates (crushed stone, gravel and sand) as well as downstream businesses such as asphalt and ready-mix concrete. The group holds majority and minority interests in more than 70 countries across all continents.
Sahagun notes Holcim Philippines holds a strong financial position among industry players, and even brighter prospects in both the foreseeable future and likely beyond. This is a direct consequence of a vibrant real estate and construction sectors, as well as government-mandated infrastructure projects in varying stages of development.
Amidst such business environment, he says it has become crucial for builders and decision makers to partner with the right suppliers that espouse a genuine concern for the environment.
“As you know construction is one of our main drivers, and when I talk to people, it makes me think, it is part of their decision process that they have equally some responsibilities in choosing the suppliers that they have, especially tall buildings, or building a community,” he says.
The basic raw materials the company uses remain the same ̶ concrete, gravel and sand, and cement. He says, “if only your basis is price, I think it’s a short-term view, because if you’re not concerned whether your supplier is doing their environmental performance (duties), then one day what you develop might be flooded, or might not be as strong because of inferior materials.”
One big concern that Sahagun likes to highlight is that some types of cement can be hazardous to both the people and the environment. These are still being used, especially by the government, because such products still fall under the users’ acceptable types of materials.
“When you talk about big cement consumers like government, they will say, sorry this is our standard. But the cement they like to use would release a lot of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere.”
Sahagun says part of their job is to try to make everyone ̶ including government ̶ aware that they should use materials that emit less CO2, if they really care about the environment.
Looking forward, Sahagun says he hopes to step up the campaign for people to be more mindful of the structures they build and the products they use daily. Part of the initiative is supporting local communities through environmental-friendly livelihood programs, and bringing in a brand ambassador in the person of celebrity endorser Kim Atienza to drum up environmental awareness and the biting realities of climate change.
The company has realized that because of the nature of its products and its business, Holcim must play a more pro-active role in preserving and nurturing the same environment and resources they tap and use. Sahagun should know. He has been in the cement industry holding various positions over the last 35 years before he was appointed as CEO in January 2013.
Asked what legacy he would like to impart chief of Holcim Philippines, Sahagun says he would like to mentor as many employees to go for executive positions in the company ̶ even leaders in the cement industry.
“I’ve always told them first you have to fight yourself, because sometimes yourself is the problem, because if you put a cap where you are, then you cannot go farther. After that, everything else is possible.”
Wise words from the man who was also able to make it with the help of a mentor, coupled with hard work and a clear vision of where he wanted to go.