Infrastructure sustainability improves biodiversity

June 5, 2020


World Environment Day guest post from Sustainability Manager Brendan Liveris.

Some of the most memorable positive stories over the last few months included images of  cleaner air, clearer waters and animals popping up where we might not have recently seen them. It’s given us an opportunity to pause and reflect on how wonderful our world is, even during a time of such uncertainty. It seems fitting that theme for World Environment Day 2020 is biodiversity.

Dolphin swimming in foreground of Spain's cement plant

This image was captured by a HeidelbergCement employee at a cement plant in Spain.

Unlike climate change, biodiversity does not often make the headlines, but the value biodiversity provides humanity is estimated to be worth 1.5 times global GDP, for example, access to fresh air and food.

The World Economic Forum considers biodiversity to be in the top four of risks (for both impact and likelihood) over the next 10 years. That alone is a compelling reason to act now.

In 2018, our global parent company, HeidelbergCement became a signatory to the UN Global Compact, in doing so, committing the business to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Many of the SDGs have direct or indirect consequences for biodiversity. As a global construction materials producer, we have a responsibility to sustain and protect our environment. We play a role in the improvement of biodiversity by ensuring we are manufacturing products that enable our customer to ‘build to last’, we are committed to carefully managing the environments we work within and contributing toward the development of a thriving circular economy.
Gaskell's Sand Quarry

Western Australia’s Gaskell Sand Quarry is situated in the northern suburbs of Perth.


Building with products designed to last is a critical plank in improving biodiversity outcomes. The longer a product serves its designated purpose, the lower the lifetime environmental impacts. Industry organisations such as ISCA (Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia) and the GBCA (Green Building Council of Australia) promote this bigger picture and support environmental measures like examination of whole of life impacts. Our technical and sales teams work together with our customers to choose or design the right product to do the job for the long term. The ‘right first time’ approach not only saves money in the long term, it saves the environment.

Actively managing the biodiversity of our quarry operations is a key focus for our people across Australia and the globe. Our commitment to biodiversity has been recognised through our global Quarry Life Awards that drive innovation and the achievement of biodiversity outcomes.

The Hanson quarry in Gaskell, Western Australia has been recognised for its work in cultivating the growth of local native species, in conjunction with local research groups. An important step in achieving these outcomes is consciously managing the top soil throughout the life of a quarry, as a routine operation. The organic matter in top soil facilitates plant growth and may contain valuable indigenous seed-banks, making it critical to effective rehabilitation and a sustainable operation.

Over in the eastern states our recycling facility in Epping works closely with their local council and conservation agencies to preserve that natural habitat of the endangered growling grass frog. Their work has ensured the preservation of natural fauna and flora to support the species’ ecosystem, as well as the establishment of a protective breeding corridor to facilitate safe movement of the growling grass frog population during their breeding season.

Growling Grass Frog

Recycling plays a major role in the preservation of the growling grass frog’s natural habitat.

Recycling plays a major role in preserving biodiversity. Preventing materials being landfilled has positive benefits, two-fold. It ensures that we achieve maximum value out of every resource – transforming a waste stream into useful, valuable materials. It also an environmentally beneficial use of former quarry sites. Rather than simply filling these holes in the ground with waste, we can use these site to recycle that waste materials, reducing landfill and it’s impacts, as well as the need to create more holes in the ground. This has a direct impact on biodiversity in that two environmental interactions are effectively avoided.

Driving the circular economy and finding a second use through recycling or upcycling is another key plank in supporting a biodiverse environment. This is core business for our Alex Fraser Recycling operations where a range of materials are diverted from waste and recycled to build greener infrastructure and drive circular economic growth.

Improving biodiversity outcomes is an ongoing challenge which requires a lot more work. It does not just get solved, it needs to be actively managed for the long term and calls on the action of all participants in a supply chain to help. The rewards extend beyond the financial and environmental, to the natural wonder that those images have so impressively captured.

*Cover image from NY Post


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