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SERA Aiming for Certification of Responsibly Sourced Construction Materials in Canada

Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregates (SERA) is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that aims to create, administer and promote widespread support for certification of responsibly sourced construction materials, with an initial focus on responsibly sourced aggregates.

Responsibly sourced aggregates refers to stone, sand and gravel that would be extracted in compliance with SERA’s world-class standards for aggregate siting, rehabilitation, operation and use, according to the group.

The SERA Standards introduce a solution to addressing the conflict that contributes to the lengthy and expensive regulatory processes that currently characterize licensing of aggregate facilities in Ontario. Released on June 1, the Draft SERA Standards offer aggregate operators a practical way to extract aggregate materials while meeting the social and environmental expectations of local municipalities, environmental groups and the general public.

An independent consultant, BuildGreen Solutions, was engaged by SERA to conduct an online review of the Draft SERA Standards compared with international aggregate standards. BuildGreen Solutions’ research concluded that, “Following an exhaustive online review BuildGreen Solutions is confident to say that we could find nothing that came close to rivaling the draft SERA standards in terms of rigor or comprehensiveness related to aggregate extraction.”

The Draft SERA Standards are intended to be a starting point for discussion with key stakeholders. They will be revised and finalized by the SERA Board in 2013, following field-testing and consultation with a broad audience of stakeholders.

SERA’s main principles are:

Principle 1: Compliance with laws.

Aggregate extraction activities (i.e., identification and siting, footprint design, operation and rehabilitation) meet or exceed the requirements of all applicable laws in the jurisdictions in which they occur.

Principle 2: Community consultation and involvement.

Public understanding of aggregate extraction activities is achieved by inclusive and transparent stakeholder involvement in all major steps of the resource development, including siting, footprint design, operations and rehabilitation. No one has all of the answers but collaborative efforts can lead to better solutions, better decisions and better outcomes.

Principle 3: Respect for First Nations’ rights and culture.

The legal, customary and asserted rights of First Nations’ peoples to protect their cultural heritage and to own, use and manage their lands, territories and resources is recognized and respected.

Principle 4: Benefits to local communities and workers.

Aggregate extraction activities maintain or enhance the long-term social and economic well-being of local communities and workers.

Principle 5: Environmental and water impacts and site stewardship.

Aggregate extraction activities – their identification, siting, footprint design, operation, rehabilitation and other ecological initiatives – are designed to protect, restore or improve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and to protect unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and integrity of the area and its connections to the regional landscape.

Principle 6: Resource efficiency.

The efficient use and conservation of aggregates and other resources is achieved by putting them to their highest valued use, maximizing the use of recycled content by looking for alternatives to using high quantities of virgin aggregate and, in the medium to long term, developing optimal transportation networks that factor in both financial and environmental costs.

Principle 7: Traceability.

Systems are in place to track aggregate from certified operations through to its end use.