NGO promotes responsible aggregate purchasing

Collaboration pushes socially and environmentally responsible pits and quarries in Ontario

June 1, 2011
by Purchasing b2b staff

TORONTO: Environmental Defence and Holcim Canada have established a not-for-profit called Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregates (SERA) to create voluntary certification standards for responsibly sourced sand, stone and gravel.

Environmental Defence is an NGO focusing on environmental issues including aggregate siting, while Holcim Canada and its aggregate division, Dufferin Aggregates, is an aggregate company. The organizations said they would work towards resolving conflicts between industry, First Nations and community and environmental groups.

“Aggregate is an important resource that is vital for building the country’s infrastructure,” said Paul Ostrander, president and CEO, Holcim Canada Inc. “SERA will help the aggregate industry to meet the demand for aggregates while meeting community needs and demonstrating measurable efforts to address the social and environmental impacts of pits and quarries.”

Holcim Canada and Environmental Defence also released draft standards for socially and environmentally responsible aggregate siting, operation and use. The proposed SERA certification system builds on the experiences of other resource management standards, like Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and provides principles and core requirements independent certifiers will use to assess an aggregate site’s success in meeting or exceeding best management environmental practices.

“SERA is the result of two years of hard work between Environmental Defence and Holcim Canada—it’s our best effort to define what leadership looks like for the aggregate industry,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence. “Moving forward, we realize that for SERA and these standards to succeed, we need the involvement and support of a broader group of industry, community and environmental groups, and First Nations organizations.”

The aim is that the draft standards is to provide a clear and practical approach for responsibly sourced aggregates offering world-class practices for the siting, rehabilitation and operation of pits and quarries. The standards will outline responsible resource use and processing and aim for:

  • A reliable long-term supply of aggregate materials that will be socially and environmentally responsibly sourced;
  • Protection of ecologically and hydrologically important natural areas;
  • Engagement with communities and First Nations groups before extraction is licensed;
  • A time limit for extraction and phase out plans that incorporate communities’ interests;
  • The ability of government and private purchasers to leverage buying power and request responsibly sourced aggregate materials to meet the requirements of new, green building standards and policies;
  • A market-based tool for government regulators that recognizes sites that address the social, environmental and water expectations of the local community.

Over the next 18 to 24 months, SERA founding board and executive director Lorne Johnson will engage government, aggregate operators, environmental groups, municipalities, community groups and First Nations to ensure the standards are protective of the natural environment, considerate of local communities and implementable by industry, said SERA.

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