When Marcel Krogbeumker talks about his company, it sounds like so often family entrepreneurs. His father was already burning lime. He got it from his grandfather and he got it from his great-grandfather. A small business became a large company. Krogbeumker is the fourth generation to run the Phoenix cement works in Beckum, located halfway between Bielefeld and Dortmund – and yet things are not to continue as they have been. "I grew up at the plant, I'm 40 now, and I've been at the plant and plant every day for 40 years," says the owner. He wants to convert the company to be climate-neutral.

Philipp Krohn

Editor in the business world, responsible for "People and Economy".

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Many of his employees say: I've known him since I was a child. As a family business, Krogbeumker sees itself as having a special responsibility to its workforce, and at the same time expects a high level of loyalty from its employees. Continuity is what sets Phoenix apart. Managing Director Kai Wagner says he has only been with the company for 23 years. That's not quite true, because he had already done his diploma thesis in the company and worked for a supplier.

At Phoenix Cement Works, maintaining tradition not only has a nostalgic component, but also a practical benefit: the long-standing employees know the advantages and pitfalls of the machines and are responsive to them. He doesn't want to rotate through quickly, says Krogbeumker. "On weekends, you walk your dog in the quarry: how is the mining progress? What does the material look like? Are the roads okay?" he says. If he heard that something was wrong with a machine, his employees would say in the most direct Westphalian: "What kind of machine is that?" He must be able to discuss with them on an equal footing. "You know every screw in the factory," he says.

The cement producer is facing up to the problem

But things cannot go on the way they have been in many years from great-grandfather to grandfather and father. This is because the cement that the company produces is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas effect. The cement industry accounts for about 6 to 8 percent of CO2 emissions. As long as it is mainly Western tourists, businessmen and family members who fly, this is four times as much as the aviation industry. It is clear to everyone in the industry that this has to change. This is because the European emissions trading system makes it more expensive to allow gas to be released into the air year after year.

In industry, manufacturers and suppliers, together with the construction industry and the scientific community, are considering how they can free themselves from this situation. However, unlike in the automotive industry and power generation, it is not simply possible to make the energy supply more sustainable. Two-thirds of the emissions in production come from the raw material that has to be broken down. When the limestone is processed into clinker, the CO2 stored in it over millions of years dissolves and escapes into the atmosphere.

Krogbeumker wants to take on the task of producing gentler building materials and finding a better place for emissions than the Earth's atmosphere, where it heats up the Earth. "We definitely want to hold on to this location, we want to convert the plant to climate neutrality so that we don't become an import terminal for cement without CO2 production from abroad," he says.

That's why Phoenix Zementwerke is regularly present when a cement round table meets in Berlin. The CDU member of the Bundestag, Henning Rehbaum, recently invited to the fifth edition. He initiated the meetings a good two years ago with the plant manufacturer Thyssekrupp Polysius: a deliberately interdisciplinary forum with the cement industry, the construction industry, research, logistics and pipeline manufacturers, which wants to take over the removal of carbon dioxide, which could then be injected in the North Sea, for example – as Norway and Denmark are doing.