Submitted by guest blogger on Fri, 03/01/2013

By James Dalton, Coordinator, Global Initiatives, IUCN's Global Water Programme.

It has been over three years since we first sat down with CEMEX, the global building materials company headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico. It was one of those meetings where we were not sure what they wanted to talk about apart from the general subject of ‘water’. What were they interested in? What could we realistically work with them on jointly? After all, corporate interests come and go, sometimes very rapidly.

I can still clearly remember that meeting – and the realisation that we had many joint ideas and similar concerns about water resources and the role of their business in working towards better water management.
After three years of working in partnership with CEMEX I think we are in a much better position to understand their business concerns and to understand how we, working jointly with them, can find solutions to improve the efficiency of water use and to also help the company identify and reduce water risks. Risks both to the company to ensure they maintain access to water, but also to those other businesses, communities, AND the natural freshwater ecosystems downstream of quarries and cement works.

We pulled some of this learning together at the end of last year and presented it at our joint event at the Spanish Permanent Representation to the EU offices in Brussels. We jointly presented the methodology we have worked on to standardize water measurement and management across company operations, and also presented some of the more innovative approaches to water management between companies (see Sweet Cement article). It was a well-attended event with an excellent audience – they were well informed and came prepared with some very good questions and suggestions.

We got an interesting question from an audience member – they asked ‘what does this work have to do with biodiversity’? I’ll be honest – this baffled us a little – the connection between a company which extracts natural resources from the ground, extracts and discharges water at thousands of sites around the world, and can shape communities and landscapes through its daily operations – and the connection to biodiversity is not obvious? But what really made us smile was that CEMEX answered this question…and they answered it well. Find out more.