This is a guest blog by Claire Malcolmson, the Responsible Aggregate consultant for Environmental Defence

Environmental Defence has fought a lot of bad pits and quarries over the years. We’ve won some fights, and lost others. But we can’t fight every one. That’s why we sought out another way, which is what the Cornerstone Standards Council (CSC) represents.

Nearly three years ago, the CSC released a voluntary certification standard for progressive aggregate operators in Ontario. Now, following a pilot period, parts of the standard are being reviewed, in order to improve clarity for both aggregate (stone, sand and gravel) operators and CSC auditors.

Aggregate operation - limestone quarries

Environmental Defence is hosting two community workshops about aggregate and the CSC in Ontario: next week in Acton, Halton Hills, the evening of December 4th, and in Oro-Medonte, Simcoe County, on December 5th. Registration is open until the day before the event and is required to ensure all attendees get a free dinner to fuel their thoughts. If you are interested in receiving background information and a survey but you cannot attend a workshop, please contact the Responsible Aggregate consultant for Environmental Defence.

We want to hear what matters most to Ontarians affected by aggregate operations in their communities.  Environmental Defence will be one of the voices informing the revision of the standard and it is our aim to bring to the table the input of community members who are concerned about the impacts from aggregate operations on the environment and communities.

During CSC’s pilot period four aggregate pits and quarries have been certified, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Town of Erin, and a group of developers have expressed their intention to purchase CSC Certified aggregate when available. Environmental Defence believes that demand for certified aggregates will encourage more operators to meet CSC’s requirements for responsible practice and we are reaching out to municipalities to encourage them to look into buying CSC Certified aggregates.

Environmental Defence was one of the first organizations involved in creating a standard to recognize aggregate operations that go beyond regulatory requirements in the areas of community engagement, environmental impacts, mitigation and remediation, engagement with Indigenous peoples, benefits to communities, and more. We did so because the status quo was not adequately protecting the environment, and because there were so many big, expensive, battles being fought in communities where aggregate applications were inappropriate. You can read our blog, The Long Road to Greener Gravel, for background.

While no one would claim that the CSC Standard is perfect, it’s a step in the right direction and the type of practical change that Environmental Defence works towards every day. The aggregate industry doesn’t need us to operate. But we can make it harder for the bad operators. And we can also put our weight behind the good operators. If aggregate industry leaders are not recognized for going beyond the bare minimum requirements, then what motivation do they have to do so?


Claire Malcolmson is a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth on an Environmental Defence partnership that championed the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. Claire also led campaigns for the Great Lakes Protection Act, and for changes to campaign contribution rules for municipal election candidates under “Campaign Fairness”.  She lives in Innisfil, Lake Simcoe, with her husband and wee boys.