Holcim marks centennial by reaffirming community ties


As a global company, cement maker Holcim has withstood two world wars and the Great Depression.

This is largely due to the blueprint provided by Ernst Schmidheiny and Adolf Gygi, who founded the company in 1912. Under their watch, they laid out a format that gave Holcim international success: expansion plans by crossing borders, continuous integration proven by its innovative product offerings, and technological advancements that promote responsible operations.

Of this feat, Rolf Soiron and Markus Akermann, the chairman and recently retired chief executive of Holcim respectively, said in Chronology, a book about the company’s history: “Only those who are able to tackle history’s challenges and react to change with a constructive attitude will succeed.”

Holcim first crossed its borders in 1925 by acquiring a stake of a cement plant in Belgium. Soiron and Akermann explained this move by saying: “Holcim’s management has always been aware that Switzerland was simply too small if they wanted to grow.”

From then on, Holcim steadily branched out to different regions and to other continents and, by the turn of the millennium, the company was truly a global construction materials company.

Holcim's presence in the Philippines goes back to as early as 1974. Holcim — then known as Holderbank — partnered with the owners of what would become Alsons Cement Corporation, which operated a plant in Lugait, Misamis Oriental. The partnership included the provisions for technical assistance in cement manufacturing, and training opportunities in the Swiss village of Holderbank. In 1998, Holcim acquired shares of a company that later became Union Cement Corporation (UCC), a merger of three companies which had cement plants in La Union, Bulacan and Davao. Four years later, UCC acquired ownership of Alsons Cement. In 2004, UCC was renamed Holcim Philippines, Inc.

Today, Holcim Philippines is the country's leading cement company, with a workforce of over 1,700 in its four cement plants and other facilities.

For the future generation

Holcim’s commitment to sustainability has long been a hallmark for all its group companies. It is a mindset born out of the understanding that the company’s operations impact the environment and its communities, and thus ensuring continued economic success must be balanced with these considerations.

This has prompted Holcim to participate actively in groups that espouse sustainable development. As early as 1992, it signed the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Charter for Sustainable Development, and in 1999 it became part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

A vital part of Holcim’s sustainability concept is its commitment to engage the communities where it operates, particularly through corporate social responsibility projects that are focused on education, infrastructure and sustainable development.

As explained in the book, “It does so by, on the one hand, regularly financing the construction and improvement of local infrastructure, and on the other, supporting the local population in their own building projects, above all in emerging markets. It does this by making it easier to acquire building materials and providing financing solutions for private construction.”

For its hundredth year, the company has adopted the theme “100 years of Strength. Performance. Passion,” and it plans to celebrate this by engaging its employees in doing necessary works in the communities where the company operates.

Holcim Philippines has translated this through a campaign, dubbed “Sagot ko ang Bukas” which is set to be launched internally on March 26. “With this campaign, Holcim Philippines plans to involve not just its 1,700 employees, but inspire more Filipinos to make a personal commitment to do something concrete for the benefit of tomorrow’s generation,” said Holcim Philippines Chief Operating Officer Roland van Wijnen.

Holcim Philippines believes that the way to make great impact is to take even the littlest steps in building a world that is livable for everyone, because this is exactly the very core value and ethos of the Holcim Group—to build a sustainable future.