I am looking forward to welcoming the EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, to our Northward Hill Reserve tomorrow.  He has been a good Commissioner, a champion both of nature but also a defender of the right of NGOs to speak out.  His term in office has coincided with the economic crash and the political response to it.  It's clear that he has had to fight hard to protect environmental interests during this period.  There has been a lot of nonsense spoken and written about the costs and problems associated with EU environmental legislation particularly the Birds and Habitats Directives.  This is why I am delighted that some enlightened businesses have invested the time and effort to understand and work with the legislation.  To coincide with today's visit, I am delighted to host a guest blog from Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs & Communications of the aggregates company, CEMEX, a company that we have enjoyed working with over the past seven years.


There has recently been a lot of focus by the media on the European Union and the future of the EU itself following the outcome of the elections for the parliament. The TV, radio and newspapers have talked about little else but the political message delivered by the voters in supporting parties that have a nationalist agenda and a focus on issues such as immigration. Little attention was given to any positive aspect of the EU, or indeed to the fact that despite the headlines most voters across the 28 Member States still voted for pro-European parties. On the day the leaders of the EU Member States travelled to Brussels to chew over the outcome of the elections, some of us were already there to acknowledge the role of two of the major successes of the EU and launch a new agreement to deepen cooperation between a leading business and NGO. 

On 27 May, the respective European operations of CEMEX, the global building materials company, and BirdLife International, came together, supported by the EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, to sign and launch their new joint statement 'Together For Biodiversity’  which demonstrates the commitment of both parties to the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Dove Holes quarry where the RSPB and CEMEX are working together to help save twite

At CEMEX we have worked hard to develop our business as an environmental leader in the sector, not just in how we reduce impacts at an operational level, but also in being resource efficient in the energy and raw materials that we use, as well as producing thermally efficient building materials that can help society achieve a lower carbon future. Working with BirdLife International and its national affiliate associations has been key to that.

In the presence of the Commissioner and an audience made up of representatives from the media, NGOs, the EU Institutions and business, both BirdLife Europe and CEMEX highlighted the success to date of their partnership agreement signed in 2007 and this new enhancement. The statement moves the relationship to a new level beyond pro-active joint work on biodiversity action plans to a joint understanding on the key fundamentals of good environmental legislation. Anyone who works in or has experience of an extractive industry knows that well-designed, consistent and fairly enforced policies and regulation work not just for the environment, but also for business; a level playing field is fundamental for our competitiveness. 

At a practical level the fruits of this relationship can be seen in many of the European Countries in which CEMEX operates and the very active working relationships that we have with the national BirdLife partners such as OTOP in Poland, LPO in France, SEO in Spain and the RSPB in the UK. For example since 2010 the relationship in Britain with the RSPB has helped to deliver the restoration of more than 500 hectares of priority nature habitats, an area equivalent to more than 750 football pitches.

So while the headlines have all being about the negatives of the EU, it was good to be in Brussels to help redress the balance a little, and stand up for responsible business and the environment.

Martin Casey Director Public Affairs & Communications CEMEX

  • In an era where our Government at least sees itself in a race to the bottom, this is a timely reminder that there is another way, and that behind the headlines of (often failing) business taking on the environment there are other companies that have opted for a very different route - a route that makes business sense when you are in activities like extraction where future permissions may well depend on a company's reputation. Well done CEMEX - and the other minerals companies RSPB are working with - and I hope that with RSPB you manage to reverse the Twite's decline.