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May 9-16, 2007

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Check yourself

Check yourself: Cemex's partnership with Save Our Shores stems from their corporate ethic of balancing practices that impact the environment with environmental stewardship.

A Shining Light in Corporate Ethics

Cemex puts its money where its mouth is and donates $25,000 to local advocacy group Save Our Shores

By Steve Hahn

When it comes to environmental reform, the federal government has, in recent decisions on everything from the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol to last week's critique of the U.N.-sponsored climate change report, recommended slow, intermittent change that will minimally impact the economy. Lobbying groups on all sides of the issue frequently react to this gridlocked national debate by blaming each other for getting in the way of the priorities most dear to the nation, which are often classed either under "business interests" or "environmental interests," but rarely both.

Last week, at the harbor of Santa Cruz, this division got a little closer to being bridged. Santa Cruz-based marine protection advocacy group Save Our Shores and Texas-based cement manufacturer Cemex met on April 25 to ascend beyond the petty finger-pointing and head-butting that has come to characterize national environmental politics and instead get down to the work that will benefit the Santa Cruz region as a whole.

Cemex, which owns a cement plant in Davenport, donated $25,000 to become the first platinum sponsor of Save Our Shore's newly created Corporate Partnership program, which aims to attract funding for continued protection of the fragile ecosystem in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.

Rick Shapiro flew in from Cemex corporate headquarters in Texas to accept the plaque.

"We believe Save Our Shores is consistent with our corporate values," he said. "I went for a walk along Lighthouse Beach the other day. I realized how fragile the ecosystem is, and yet how beautiful. [Cemex] realizes the environmental footprint we are leaving in Davenport. This highlights the need for us to give back."

Save Our Shores treasurer Fred Keeley expressed optimism that the example Cemex (who just days before was awarded the first ever EcoVisionary award in Washington, D.C., for its work in preserving wildlife habitats) and a handful of smaller business contributors set would be followed by other major economic players in the community including the Seaside Company, who sent a representative to the meeting.

"We want to recognize and work with corporations that have been good corporate citizens at their sites, and have them as allies," said Keeley, who also serves as county treasurer. "The environment and businesses can get along just fine. Cemex shows that you can have a large business on the coast that is sustainable."

If more businesses accept Keeley's call to action, the new flow of money, including a promise by Cemex to contribute another $25,000 if an equal amount is matched by Save Our Shores' board of directors, could propel an unprecedented growth spurt in this increasingly powerful organization. Save Our Shores started out primarily organizing beach cleanup crews around 1981, but since 1985 has been attracting members and lobbying more aggressively for protection of the Monterey Bay.

While the organization's political agenda has rubbed some industry groups the wrong way (mainly commercial fishers and oil companies), Keeley and his compatriots on the board of directors dash the false dichotomy between business and environmental interests on the rocky shore and instead perceive an interdependent relationship.

"If we have clean beaches, a healthy ocean and plentiful fisheries, we will have a healthy business community in Santa Cruz," he said. "People are going to want to visit and patronize our local businesses."

Call Laura Kasa at Save Our Shores, 831.462.5660, to participate in the corporate sponsorship program or a beach cleanup.

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