The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biological diversity as 'the variability among living organisms from all sources'. Ecosystems are defined as 'a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit'.

Human well-being relies on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services, which are the goods and services provided by nature. On a global scale properly functioning ecosystems provide climate regulation and contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation such as flood control or climate moderation, provisioning services such as food, wood or pollination, and cultural services such as recreation.

In cement production, the greatest potential for disruption to local biodiversity is during quarrying and the acquisition of raw materials phases. Compatibility between quarry activities and biodiversity is achievable through correct resource management during the quarrying phases in the cement sector. For example, a range of studies conducted in several European countries has demonstrated that correctly managed quarries are able to provide habitats to some protected species. In addition, proper planning and rehabilitation can positively contribute to biodiversity conservation

Biodiversity Action Plans
In Ireland Biodiversity Action Plans have been produced for all the sites, which both catalogues the diversity of flora and fauna on the sites and provides management strategies and techniques to further enhance the attractiveness of the sites.

The current management practices on the cement plants are sensitive to the needs of the local environment. For example sand martins, which are summer migrants to Ireland return each year to a number of the sites. The sand martins nest in vertical sand ‘cliffs’ or banks. Management practice at each of the sites maintains undisturbed areas during the summer nesting season. 

Another example of sensitive management of local biodiversity is the case of a breeding colony of greylag geese. The birds are ground nesting and have established a colony on an undisturbed island in a man-made lake on the site. During the early summer the adult geese bring the young geese into the pasturelands to feed. Staff at the cement works delaying cutting the pasture until late summer so as to avoid disturbing the flocks.

The members of CMI recognize their responsibilities as custodians of landholdings within the Irish landscape. Actively managed lands are treated sensitively to ensure a diverse and attractive perimeter extends around the plants boundaries. Other areas of the landscape are managed for both arable and livestock farming.

Emission control
Given the nature of the cement manufacturing process where both the raw materials and final products are milled to fine powders, dust control systems are integrated throughout the plants. EU guidelines on Best Available Technology (BAT) for particulate (dust) control in the cement plants is for the installation of modern bag filters.
The bag filter shown in the photograph significantly reduces the level of dust emissions and all the captured dusts are returned back to the process.

The improvements in dust capture and control has been especially welcomed by employees and communities in the vicinity of the cement plants.

All of CMI member cement plants operate under Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licences from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each of the IPPC licences set out maximum emission limit values for key materials that can be emitted from the cement manufacturing process. Compliance with licence conditions is assessed through regular site inspections by the EPA and reported publically by each plant through their Annual Environmental Reports (AER).

Quarry re-instatement
As a condition of the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) each of the quarries must have quarry re-instatement plans. These plans, approved by the EPA outline the future options for the worked out quarries. In many cases the aftercare plans involve increasing the amenity value for the community. CMI members operate substantial limestone quarries with planned reserves for the next 50 to 100 years. All CMI quarries have approved Closure, Aftercare and Managemet Plans in place.

In the UK where some quarries and gravel pits have been worked out they have now been put to a variety of uses including reservoirs, water sports centres or wildlife refuges. In the North of Ireland one of the Lafarge quarries has received approval for the development of an award winning eco community.