Europe and Central Asia
22 Jan 2015

“Biodiversity is everyone’s business”: teaming up with HeidelbergCement

Sand Martins in HeidelbergCement quarries © Hartwig Brönner
By Boris Barov

The value of quarries to many plants and animals in Europe has long been recognised. However, consistent large scale efforts to promote biodiversity management across numerous sites by the same sector or company are more recent and stem from the recognition of nature protection as a crucial issue to the business.

“Our three years old partnership with HeidelbergCement is of strategic importance to us”: this is the message that came out clearly from the participants in the partnership conference in Prague last December. Nearly 50 company managers, environment and communication officers were joined by 17 BirdLife partners and secretariat staff involved in this very successful collaboration. But why are such partnerships strategic and what makes them work?

The obvious side of it is our joint work promoting biodiversity in HeidelbergCement quarries. The value of quarries to many plants and animals in Europe has long been recognised and in many countries environmentalists and local industries work together to make quarries better places for wildlife and the surrounding community. However, consistent large scale efforts to promote biodiversity management across numerous sites by the same sector or company are more recent. They stem from the recognition of nature protection as material issue to the business.

Having recognised the importance of biodiversity and responsible land management to its core business the company embraced the opportunities offered by the BirdLife partnership. Being a network of likely minded local organisations we could tap into numerous local success stories and transfer best practices elsewhere. But to be strategic, we need data and tools to enable us to move from spontaneous identification of opportunities to a systematic approach. Such an approach requires biodiversity management  to be based on high quality impact assessment and risk management and has to be integrated in all stages of the quarry life.

Neither HeidelbergCement nor BirdLife can do this alone, so joining our efforts makes a lot of sense. For example, we identified that more than 35% of HeidelbergCement quarries have high biodiversity value. The company has committed to implement biodiversity  management plans on all such sites by 2020. We were then able to set priorities among the sites choosing those where plans are missing or where implementation of specific actions can be sped up.

Planning is important, but implementation is more exciting. To support implementation of priority biodiversity measures through a ‘lead by example’ approach, HeidelbergCement and BirdLife established a partnership fund for biodiversity conservation projects. For the two years since we launched the fund we have started 16 new projects in nine countries. The total value of the projects exceeds 420,000 euro and the topics covered vary from managing invasive species, restoration of lakes and floodplain habitats, grassland restoration and management through grazing, habitat networking, monitoring of species, improving facilities for environmental education and visitors' infrastructure... Overall, the projects serve to stimulate the implementation of biodiversity restoration and management actions across the company sites and to stimulate cooperation at local level between environmental and civil society groups and the company.

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The less obvious, but no less important side of our partnership is our ongoing dialogue on topics of mutual interest in the broader fields of environmental sustainability. The BirdLife and HeidelbergCement policy and public affairs experts are now meeting on a regular basis to discuss how industry and NGOs can work alongside on the road to a more sustainable economy and society. In addition to strengthening our policy messages (e.g. in support to Natura 2000 and the EU Nature legislation) this dialogue gives us the possibility to increase our capacity and understanding of wider environmental issues of concern such as the sustainability of the use of natural resources and the protection of the climate, and thus to pursue more effectively BirdLife’s mission.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.