top of page

Building a Corporate Biodiversity Program from the Ground Up: the wienerberger way

Updated: Jan 25


Wienerberger ambassadors on a wildlife transect

“Sustainability has always been part of wienerberger’s DNA. We are aware of our enormous responsibility for people and the planet. For example, renaturing our quarries and converting them into diverse habitats has long been a tradition with us,” says Rena De Mey. She is one of three project managers appointed specifically to foster biodiversity within the wienerberger Group.


The world’s leading provider of building material and infrastructure solutions approaches biodiversity from various angles – by minimizing their own environmental impact, avoiding the use of hazardous substances, and designing special products for enhanced biological diversity.


We spoke with wienerberger about their biodiversity initiatives to understand how other corporations can follow their lead. Read on to learn more.


Our key takeaways: 

● Embracing a biodiversity mindset not only adds value to your brand but can also unlock new strategies in product development and consequently new revenue streams. 

● There are small, affordable environmental changes any company can implement to foster biodiversity. 

● Biodiversity programs and monitoring are an easy, exciting way to engage teams and customers across cultural and language barriers. 

● Communicating your projects and educating your community and the world at large is critical to maximizing your impact. 


With increasing focus on environmental issues globally and the resulting concern from consumers, many corporations are recognizing the importance of protecting and promoting biodiversity. wienerberger, a leading international building materials group with over 200 plants around the globe, believes that if global environmental goals are to be achieved, companies too must embark on the journey of nature positive.


In 2021 the company launched a bold biodiversity initiative with the company's first Biodiversity Action Plans being tested in 2022 across five pilot projects. On their success, further activities were launched on sites across the globe in 2023. We spoke to Rena De Mey and Lorena Monteiro, two of wienerberger's biodiversity project managers, to learn more about their journey in establishing this impactful project. 


wienerberger’s Biodiversity Action Plan

“The loss of biodiversity over the past 40 years has been unprecedented, and we are determined to counteract this development with our Biodiversity Program.” Heimo Scheuch CEO Wienerberger

 

The wienerberger Sustainability Program 2023 resulted from a leadership decision to strengthen their commitment to environmental conservation. They were excited and even a little surprised to see how engaged and enthusiastic their employees were about the initiative. "We realized there was a buzz about biodiversity coming from internal and external people," said Rena. As a forest engineer passionate about nature, Rena saw an opportunity. "I jumped on the program when I learned wienerberger was trying to implement it.” 


She, Lorena and their team got to work developing practical action plans for the production sites that could accommodate biodiversity initiatives. "We have a catalog of biodiversity measures and try to include as many as possible on every site, while maintaining production, safety, and the connection with the surrounding environment" explained Rena. 


They have formulated a strong Biodiversity Action plan, a standardized six-step process that guides the creation of plans for each site, ensuring a consistent yet locally adapted approach. The first step was bringing in an external expert from the Netherlands, from universities and later on experts in other ecological regions in Europe and America to ensure that the habitat designs were ecologically sound and then to establish an accurate and impactful starting point for biodiversity monitoring. Since a critical part of the process is not only establishing the habitats but also monitoring the activity. 


Monitoring impact and engaging employees 

“Enhancing the company’s construction sites for biodiversity is ground-breaking in itself, however, involving staff in the monitoring of these improvements is too. This will help ensure that biodiversity is embedded into the culture of the company. Construction companies, such as wienerberger, often have land that is inherently good for biodiversity. En hancing such land for nature and monitoring can help lead the way for others such companies to follow.” says Dusty Gedge, Biodiversity Professional and President of the European Federation of Green Roof and Wall Associations


What makes wienerberger’s approach so unique is the continuous staff involvement in the process. The way they track biodiversity trends over time is through the wienerberger community. A key part of the program involves "biodiversity ambassadors" - volunteer employees who monitor wildlife. “The idea was to involve people because they are the protagonists of the project” said Lorena. The ambassadors conduct measurement by following a transect method, that is, moving through a set area three times a year, recording the presence of bees, butterflies and birds, and identifying species when possible. The data their ambassadors collect allows for evaluating the impact of their biodiversity measures over time. 


Despite the challenges that come with having a multinational team, the ambassadors and staff have found common ground by sharing their biodiversity photos, anecdotes and observations from their respective locations. 


A range of products inspired by biodiversity 

It is also important to note that wienerberger’s biodiversity program, beyond its environmental and cultural benefits, is influencing the future of their product line. As a global leader in ecological solutions for the entire building envelope, they are helping the world reimagine the built environment not only for humans, but our many outdoor co-inhabitants who we rely on for ecological stability. 


Their product solutions for urban biodiversity consist of wall and roof systems for bats, birds, and insects. A notably charming addition is their hedgehog boxes ensuring that these vulnerable garden visitors have a safe place to hibernate in the winter. (Did you know that hedgehogs are insectivores?) 


Getting your own biodiversity initiative started 

“All businesses have a significant impact and dependency on nature. When a business puts a biodiversity prioritization and plan into action, it is future-proofing its investment and profitability. It is great to see more and more corporates engaging on this.” Akanksha Khatri Head, Nature and Biodiversity, World Economic Forum


So what is the team’s number one tip for bringing biodiversity into your corporation? They say “just get started”, even in small steps. It's as simple as setting up an insect hotel on your grounds or.rewilding high maintenance patches of lawn with indigenous grasses and plants—with the bonus that these take less water and maintenance. Just be sure to communicate the value of these initiatives to stakeholders. As Rena explains, simple signage that explains the purpose of the intervention can add a greater level of appreciation and avoid confusion. 


Programs like wienerberger's show that the first steps in practical, science-based biodiversity stewardship are achievable by any organization. Passionate advocates willing to start, even from the ground up, can create initiatives with outsized impacts. 


The next step for wienerberger is also to provide know-how and biodiversity services to partners in the value chain. If you are interested in partnering with the wienerberger team or learning more, please contact biodiversity@wienerberger.com.

45 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page