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The swallow factory: protecting biodiversity in the workplace

Posted on 24 July 2018.

Veolia’s facility in Essenheim in Germany has been working since 2014 with NABU, a nature conservation organisation, in order to protect biodiversity.

What if your workplace was a haven for biodiversity? Increasing numbers of businesses are including this ecological requirement in their day-to-day lives via urban farms, indoor mini-vegetable gardens and even rooftop beehives…

This is a key issue for Veolia’s biomass plant in Essenheim in Western Germany. The plant produces 22,000 tonnes of compost per year and generates green electricity for 2,000 homes in the region utilizing the water vapour released by burning biowaste. The facility borders a Natura 2000 site – a nature protection area.

A survey commissioned by Veolia found that the five hectare site has no fewer than 140 different plant species and 23 biotopes, areas of optimal environmental conditions providing a place for fauna and flora to flourish.

As the plant was build near a protected area, the factory manager had to undertake a range of compensation measures to protect the site’s biodiversity and decided to ecologically manage the site. The aim was to ensure that human activity has the least possible impact on nature.

Veolia Germany set up a partnership with Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) in 2010, since 2014 experts from this German nature conservation organisation have been advising the site how biodiversity can be enhanced and protected around the facility in order to create a harmonious environment for humans, fauna and flora. The plant’s employees have taken it to heart and this aim is now an integral part of the corporate culture.

A refuge for lizards and larvae incubation

Initiatives over the past few years include planting an orchard, building piles of dead wood to provide a refuge for lizards, and constructing a clay wall to offer the ideal environment for insect reproduction and larvae incubation.

Finally, dozens of swallows have built their nests in the facility’s main hall, and these swallow nests have almost become a symbol of the site. Every evening, the last employee to depart makes sure to leave an opening so that the swallows can come and go as they please.

In 2014, Veolia Germany joined the Business and Biodiversity movement launched by the German Ministry of the Environment. The movement encourages economic players to incorporate biodiversity protection into their businesses. In 2015, the Essenheim plant even received a Sustainability Award in recognition of its partnership with NABU.