How Concrete Producers Can Innovate in a Recession

The strongest business leaders have always seen challenging times as an opportunity to leapfrog the competition. For concrete producers, the best way to emerge stronger from a recession is to invest in innovations that will meet new customer demands.

In 2008-09, experts urged countries to put environmental sustainability at the core of their recession recovery packages. The message received a lukewarm response from world leaders struggling to stabilize their economies from the effects of the financial crisis. More than a decade later, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Building a Greener Recovery: Lessons from the Great Recession, calls on governments and industries to develop strategies to combat environmental decline as they rebuild their economies from COVID-19.

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Following the global pandemic, there will be a greater appetite for sustainable solutions in all aspects of life. That’s because the world is on track for the largest drop in carbon emissions since World War II. 

In highly polluted places like India, the Himalayas are visible more than 160 kilometers away for the first time in almost 30 years. Images like this have been eye-opening to the public at large and smart concrete producers will prioritize sustainability to serve an audience that has reevaluated what “normal” looks like.

Concrete Producers Innovate Recession

Source: CNN News

How to Innovate in a Recession: Lessons from the Tech Industry

Companies in the technology industry have always used recessions as a time to reevaluate, restructure, and innovate for the next era. They understand that they can’t stand still — they must be ready when the economy inevitably rebounds. 

During the last recession, Intel made some bold moves. While it took the necessary steps to cut costs, laying off thousands of employees worldwide, it also deprioritized its traditional chip technology and invested $7 billion in new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to concentrate wholly on next-generation chip technology.

While it’s true that technology is slightly more sheltered from economic downturns than the construction industry, Intel’s proactive approach holds some lessons for concrete producers: preserve capital; sharpen business plans by focusing on a small number of initiatives; and invest in new opportunities that will generate revenue during a recovery.

Sustainability is a Key Differentiator

Even before the crisis, sustainability was on the agenda across the construction industry, driven by initiatives like the Structural Engineers 2050 Challenge, Architecture 2030, and The Carbon Leadership Forum

Concrete is a particular area of focus in these initiatives. That’s because traditional concrete produces more CO2 than the aviation industry. Cement, the key ingredient that gives concrete its strength, has a large environmental footprint. According to the International Energy Agency, cement is responsible for up to 7 percent of the world's CO2 emissions and 7 percent of industrial energy consumption. 

Producers that are not thinking about developing sustainable concrete mixes will miss out on this business opportunity and lose significant market share to competitors as more industry associations and government bodies set standards for carbon-reducing building practices. 

Irving Materials Inc. (imi) is a great example of a producer that built a competitive advantage in the midwest by being an early adopter of sustainable concrete solutions. Following its launch, imi’s green concrete led to a host of new business, including a 6,000 cubic yard pour for the Indiana University Purdue University.

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Be Ready for the Recovery

The concrete industry is one of the oldest industries in the world. The reason for its longevity is its ability to innovate at key junctures to meet the future demands of modern society. Today, the industry is standing at one of those junctures.

Concrete producers that invest in innovations like CarbonCure to offer sustainable concrete solutions will be primed and ready for the recovery. CarbonCure not only reduces the need for cement, one of the most expensive and carbon-intensive ingredients in concrete production, it also injects carbon dioxide into the concrete mix, storing it as a mineral for the lifetime of the structure.

Concrete producers around the world are already taking proactive sustainability steps to create a competitive advantage in their markets that will only benefit them as the economy rebounds.

To learn more, download our latest eBook, Innovating in a Downturn: A Guide for Concrete Producers.

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