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18 D+C  e-Paper  December 2015 Disadvantaged communities need affordable building materials. was little room to negotiate, so instead of the $ 1.3 bil- lion it requested, Cemex got only $ 600 million from the Venezuelan government. Given the difficult cir- cumstances, that was considered a victory. Another difficult situation, which ended well for Cemex, was when the EU started proceedings for possible cartel activity. According to the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada, the proceedings went on for seven years until the investigation was ulti- mately dropped in 2015 due to a lack of evidence. The upshot was simply an EU recommendation to monitor the activities of the largest cement manu- facturers. Despite setbacks of this kind, Cemex is extremely successful: in 2014, the corporation was given first place in a ranking of the most global companies in Latin America. The ranking is compiled by Miami- based Foro Multilatinas and honours prominent companies in the region. In Mexico, Cemex’s role of leadership is indisputable. The company owns the most cement plants in the country, covering about half of the national market. Having survived a vari- ety of external shocks over the course of its history, Cemex now enjoys a certain security and stability in its home country. The company’s most difficult chal- lenge was probably the death of its strategist, Lorenzo Zambrano. Nevertheless, Cemex appears strong and competitive one year after his death. At the international level, however, it remains to be seen how the company will fare in the future. At the beginning of July, its two biggest competitors – Holcim and Lafarge – declared their intention to merge and announced that the move would make the new company the largest supplier of building materi- als in the world. World famous as a result of social engagement The social engagement of Cemex, a Mexican supplier of building materials, has earned the company inter- national recognition. In June of this year, the Inter- American Development Bank praised Cemex’s social efforts and dedication to inclusion. One of the com- pany’s explicit goals is to make its goods affordable for low-income households. Roughly half of Mexico’s population lives on less than five dollars a day. However, the demand for building materials is particularly high in poorer areas because many poor families in villages or urban slums want to build their own homes. Since 1998, Cemex has sup- ported local savings clubs through its programme “Patrimonio hoy” and rewards successful savers with loans for building materials and technical advice. According to the company’s estimates, over 6.8 mil- lion people have benefited from the programme so far. In line with its dedication to customer proximity, Cemex carries out participatory studies in order to determine the needs of villages and local communi- ties. The company also offers consulting services to public and private organisations that are interested in starting projects relating to sustainable development. On its own account, Cemex promotes sustainability through its cooperation with organisations like Tecnológico de Monterrey, Ashoka and UN-Habitat. According to its website, the company would like to promote independent entrepreneurship through further education, work to reduce Mexico’s housing shortage and kick-start “the development of micro- enterprises in the construction industry”. This year, Cemex has assumed the presidency of the corporate network RedEAmérica. This association promotes cooperation between the private sector, public sector, municipalities and universities on initia- tives relating to environmental protection and sus- tainable communities. (vm) KeystoneDannemiller/picture-alliance/dpa Virginia Mercado is a scholar at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México and specialises in peace and development studies. [email protected]