Responsibility is a word that gets used a lot in our industry; corporate social responsibility, environmental responsibility; personal responsibility. Our responsibility is that what we do as a sector impacts upon our economy, our society, the environment and the lives of countless individuals across the UK, Europe and beyond.
Over the past 100 years we have become much better at recognising and acting upon our responsibility. Our operations often take centre stage in many towns and villages, providing jobs that keep communities together. And like any good neighbour, we want to contribute positively to our communities.
Our centenary year has been a great example of how we are coming out from behind high fences and engaging with the public – improving our transparency. I can think of no better example than the IQ Quarry Garden at RHS Chatsworth. We took ourselves out of our comfort zone and faced the public in a setting that placed us front and centre. The response was extraordinary; not only did the garden win Best in Show and a RHS Gold Medal, we met face to face with members of the public, sharing a positive narrative through a medium that resonated with visitors.
The message that what we do is not about environmental degradation but habitat creation and enrichment is now being increasingly recognized. Again, this is because we are opening our doors to the public and inviting in our wider community of stakeholders to be involved in projects that have our local communities at their very heart. Take Tarmac’s Langford Lowfields quarries, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire. Extensive sand and gravel extraction has created a wonderful habitat for wildlife alongside the vibrant natural corridor of the river Trent. Marsh harriers, bearded tits and bittern have all been spotted.
Staying with the ornithological theme, who could forget the social media storm caused when bee-eaters were spotted nesting in a quarry at East Leake? More than 10,000 members of the public assembled to catch a sighting of these beautiful visitors from southern Europe. This was enabled by the partnership between Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and CEMEX UK that gave visitors the opportunity to view the rare birds from a safe distance. A great partnership in action.
There are countless fantastic examples of public engagement across our sector. Take Glendinning Quarry & Concrete Products, based in Ashburton, Devon. Responsibility and accountability come naturally to them. They are involved with South Dartmoor Community College, sponsor a youth-development project at Newton Abbot Rugby Club and regularly entertain visitors to Linhay Hill Quarry – from the youngest pupils at the quarry’s nearest school, Ashburton Primary School, to undergraduate engineers and geologists who come to study the Devonian limestone formation of Linhay Hill. An example to all professionals in our field.
What is clear is that we work better when we are accountable for what we do. It makes what we do more valued. We must maintain momentum and find innovative new ways to engage with all of our stakeholders, to showcase the critical role we fulfil in modern society.