The Texas Aggregates & Concrete Association (TACA) welcomed more than 50 attendees to its Environmental & Sustainability Seminar on Sept. 23-24 at the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio.
Industry professionals delivered topical presentations on the environmental and sustainable regulations and issues facing TACA members today, including the Biden administration’s environmental policies; how to be audit-ready in a post-COVID world; the business of conservation; the federal government’s Environmental Justice initiatives; noise-related issues in the aggregates industry; using proactive community relations to limit potential liability; and how natural gas and hydrogen can support “Energy Transition.”
One conference session, “The Business of Conservation” led by Joni Carswell, CEO and president of Texan by Nature, explored how Texas businesses can create opportunity to increase profitability, while advancing sustainable usage of the state’s natural resources. Carswell works with industry partners across the state, including those in the construction and aggregates industry, to create a “return on conservation.”
“Texas is unique in that we have wide-open spaces, with 11 distinct regions – from grasslands to forests to rivers to coastline – that enable us to create long-term sustainable public/private partnership programs that are a model for the world,” Carswell told participants.
“Sustainability,” she told TACA members, “is a broader vision that celebrates conservation, but that is also good for enhancing industry reputation and community relations and, in many cases, your balance sheet.” TACA member companies agree, with many having instituted exemplary programs that celebrate biodiversity and environmentalism.
She cited CEMEX’s El Carmen Land & Conservation Co. as “one of the best and brightest.”
Nestled between Big Bend National Park and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area lies approximately 27,000 acres of desert landscape brimming with the incredibly diverse flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert. Black bear, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, as well as hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds, call El Carmen Land and Conservation Company (ECLCC) home.
“While maintaining a wild landscape on this level might not seem like a normal corporate investment, to the owners of ECLCC,” said Carswell, “it was the natural thing to do; not only good for the environment, but also for their bottom line.”
ECLCC is a partnership between CEMEX USA and Josiah Austin and has a mission to restore the lower desert landscape and protect ecological corridors in a transboundary area located as the connecting link between Texas and Mexico. ECLCC works with numerous conservation partners, including Texan by Nature and Texas Parks and Wildlife, to restore native wildlife and birds through land restoration, water developments and habitat enhancement.
She also lauded Vulcan Materials Co.’s extensive waste diversion, recycling and material use programs, which have seen the recycling of more than 1.85 million gal. of oil, 42 tons of batteries, 85,000 light bulbs, and 830 tons of oil filters since 2016. “Its commitment to quality control of waste disposal through carefully selected partners is really making a difference to the environment, and saving them time and money. It is a win/win situation,” said Carswell.
“These examples are just a few of the innovative programs and partnerships that have been implemented by TACA member companies,” said TACA President and CEO Josh Leftwich, “proving that strategic and science-based environmentalism and sustainability is good for business.
As part of TACA’s seminar, there were bikes being built for disadvantaged San Antonio children. Members of TACA’s Emerging Leaders Academy built 100 bikes as a yearly community service initiative, which is a key part of the program. This year, participants assembled the bikes at Beck Industrial in Converse, Texas, and then distributed them through SA Youth, a local children’s organization.
Over the years, TACA has donated 400 bicycles to statewide charitable organizations through its Emerging Leaders Academy, which strives to ensure a strong leadership pipeline of top industry leaders.