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16 D+C  e-Paper  December 2015 Cemex, one of Mexico’s largest corporations, is considered to be the third-largest cement manufacturer in the world. The company is so well known in part because of its dedication to social responsibility and sustainability. It hopes to play an impor- tant role in planning cities of the future. By Virginia Mercado Cemex has one of the largest international reaches of any Mexican company. Its history began in 1906 in the city of Nuevo León with the foun- dation of the Cementera Hidalgo cement factory, which was rebranded as CEMEX (Cementos Mexica- nos S.A.) in 1931 after merging with Cementos Port- land Monterrey. The company’s geographical location – in particu- lar its proximity to the USA – helped to spur its fast growth and successful entry into the export business. Even before the expansion, the owner family was able to amass a large fortune through cross-border trade. Unlike other cement producers, Cemex invested in modernisation from the very beginning in order to increase production. As a result, the company made very good profits quite early in its history and quickly became a nationwide market leader. Cemex recorded continuous growth in the first decades after its foun- dation. From national to global markets Two factors contributed to Cemex’s global expansion in the mid-1980s. First, Lorenzo Zambrano became chief executive officer in 1985. His personality and vision shaped the company profoundly. Without him, Cemex would not be what it is. Accordingly, his death last year created such a big dilemma for the company. Zambrano, who was also Cemex’s chairman, played a vital role in the company’s global rise and in its decision to position itself as a socially responsible corporation (see box, p. 18). As an important person- ality in Mexico’s business sector, he always felt a com- mitment to achieving social goals. He supported projects that aimed to give people new opportunities in fields as diverse as publishing, education, the envi- ronment and even sports. Zambrano’s corporate philosophy – and possibly the key to Cemex’s success – was based on not making the simple sale of cement the focus of the company’s activities. Instead, Zambrano felt that Cemex’s goal should be to help customers make ideas come true. “Nobody wants to buy cement – our customers want to build a house, a bridge or a street,” he liked to say. “That’s why we’re working to find new ways to help them achieve their goals more efficiently and effec- tively.” That attitude is reflected in the corporation’s pledge to deliver freshly-mixed cement at any time to as many places in the world as possible. The second important factor was that Mexico joined the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 1986. This step triggered fears across Mex- ico that the country’s companies would not be able to compete at an international level. People also wor- ried that the market would be flooded with imported goods – which did in fact happen to a certain extent. At the same time, however, GATT opened up new opportunities for companies like Cemex. Cemex took advantage of both new export options and tax breaks the Mexican government gave to companies that wanted to expand abroad. The “Cemex Way” Cemex’s business model, the so-called “Cemex Way”, has also set a precedent far beyond Mexico’s bor- ders. The enterprise initially invested in up-to-date technology and built a strong network of partners with the ultimate goal of acquiring and transforming local companies. Cemex’s ability to protect itself from external shocks was also important. One of Cemex’s greatest achievements is surely its ability to produce cement at a very low cost, making it one of the most profitable companies in the indus- An international  success OliverBrandt/imagebroker/Lineair