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Joint Sustainability Initiative (JSI)

Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. It is used for foundations, roads, walks, beams, columns, pipe, and a host of other critical applications to provide for mankind’s needs. Because it is so widely used, the industries that manufacture and use the concrete are very diverse in nature.

Therein lies a critical problem with the industry. Everyone is “out there” doing their own thing; trying to survive; competing against one another and other building systems such as wood, steel, and asphalt. While this diversity is good in many instances, it is a disadvantage when competing against other materials, most of who present a much more coordinated and coherent message in the marketplace.

Nowhere is this more evident, and nowhere is it more critical at this point in time, than in the realm of sustainability. The concrete and cement-based products industries have made attempts in the past to coordinate a message but it typically falls apart after a period of time.

Wood and steel have their act together. Does anyone refute such inherent attributes as a renewable resource for wood and recyclable for steel? It is because they invested effort to ensure these messages would resonate and stick. They are well-funded, they have a crafted delivery, and they have put their differences aside when it comes to presenting their message. It is now concrete’s turn. The industry must get its story to the public or suffer dire consequences.

I have been party to some of the failed efforts and am a participant in the latest attempt. This is one initiative that must (and I feel it will) succeed.

The newest concrete industry effort is called the JSI (Joint Sustainability Initiative) and it has the backing of nearly all of the cement and concrete related trade associations and industry leaders.

One goal of the JSI is to reach beyond our traditional technical audience to those with the government officials, building owners, green advocates and the general public. This new audience speaks a different language than we are used to, so we must adapt.

It is true that cement is a building material high in embodied energy (energy required to manufacture it) and CO2 emissions, but cement manufacturers are making great strides to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. The real story however, is the value provided in concrete, which excels in nearly every aspect of sustainability – longevity, energy efficiency, low maintenance, use of local materials, recyclability – the list goes on.

The key is to get that message to the public and decision makers. To that end, one of the first tasks of the JSI was to develop a series of presentations that representatives in the industry can use to disseminate a unified message. This phase is nearing completion and there will be eight, fully scripted Power Point presentations that cover a variety of timely topics such as: resource efficiency, by-product reduction, safety and protection, longevity and durability, use of recycled content, and a host of other social values.

These products will be available for industry use by the end of the year. That is only the beginning, however.

While representatives of the trade associations will be involved in delivery of the message, you, as users of concrete, must also become conversant in the topic. There are simply too many people to educate and in this day and age, you must be able to provide answers to the questions posed by developers, owners, politicians, and others who control your destiny at the time they are posed.

There simply isn’t enough time for you to “get back to them” or direct them to a conference or seminar that might be weeks in the future. You need to do your homework, learn the material, and be confident in your facts.

The eight Power Point shows need not all be shown. Use the ones relevant to your audience or the ones you feel comfortable presenting. CFA Management plans to produce an industry specific presentation based on the 8 modules and will provide training in how to deliver the message at next summer’s convention.

In the mean time, get a copy of the presentations, study the narrative, and begin the process of self-education.

If you want a copy of them, contact me by email at In order for us to succeed this must truly be an industry wide effort.

Ed Sauter, Executive Director, CFA
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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us