Friends of the Earth, the world’s largest grassroots environment organisation, today formally backed calls for international conservation group, WWF International to end its £3.5 million partnership with French multinational, Lafarge Aggregates. [1] The call came on the same day made as it was announced that the court action by Lafarge to secure planning permission to establish a massive quarry on Harris will not now be heard November 2003. [2]

In a strongly worded letter to WWF’s Executive director Dr Claude Martin Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Chief Executive, Kevin Dunion calls for the “partnership” to be ended and also expresses concern at the “assistance” provided to Lafarge in response to the challenge coming from those opposed to the superquarry. This includes the passing of draft letters from Lafarge to WWF for comment and advice on how best Lafarge should handle criticism in Scotland. [3]

FoE is also calling upon Lafarge to come clean on its current intentions with regard to quarrying in Harris. Due to the stagnation of European aggregate demand FoE believes that the company would indefinitely delay quarrying, thus failing to provide promised jobs whilst blighting the area from attracting other employment.

Commenting Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Chief Executive, Kevin Dunion, said:

“Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling upon Lafarge to end the litigation which is dragging out the uncertainty over the future of Harris. It now appears that the current legal action will not come to court before November 2003. Lafarge has accepted that UK aggregate demand has remained millions of tonnes below the projections of national need which it claimed at the public inquiry. It needs to come clean about its intentions. Would it start quarrying on Harris if it got planning permission, or would it simply mothball the site as an asset on its balance sheet?

“We also want WWF International to halt its relationship with the company. It is not acceptable that WWF International is advising Lafarge on how to manage the campaign by Friends of the Earth International. The time has come for WWF International to choose. Either it is going to vigorously pursue the campaign against the superquarry or continue to act as a consultant to a multinational. Lafarge should be an undesirable bedfellow for any major environmental group, having twice been heavily fined for operating a price fixing cartel in Europe. Yet WWF International financially benefits handsomely from a company which it bestows with its exclusive tag of conservation partner.” [4, 5]

Commenting, Friends of the Earth International’s Chair, Ricardo Navarro, said:

“Friends of the Earth International feels that such partnerships between industry and non-governmental organisations are entirely inappropriate. In this particular case, the agreement between Lafarge and WWF undermines the efforts of local opposition to the company’s plans and weakens the environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth Scotland which support efforts to safeguard the environment and secure sustainable livelihoods.”


[1] Lafarge Aggregates is attempting to establish a massive superquarry on Harris in the Western isles. If permission is granted it will mean the extraction of 10 million tonnes of rock for 60 years from Roineabhal mountain at Lingerbay. The rock will largely be for export to England for road building projects.

[2] The Court of Session today confirmed the date of Lafarge’s appeal as 25 November 2002.

[3] As one of WWF’s Conservation Partners, Lafarge has agreed to contribute £3.5 million (£700,000 a year for five years) to WWF.

WWF’s Conservation Partners are “multinational companies which contribute major funding to sponsor WWF’s global conservation work”. According to WWF companies which become Partners are guaranteed “a unique relationship that will enhance your brand image and add value to your marketing and communications strategy.”

WWF International’s Director General, Dr Claude Martin can be contacted on +41 22 364 91 11

[4] Lafarge is the world’s biggest producer of building materials. It owns 800 quarries around the world and employs 83,000 people in 75 countries. Lafarge also owns the UK’s Blue Circle Cement. Lafarge was also present at the World Economic Forum in Davos this January.

Lafarge is a company with a chequered history. It makes much of being one of WWF’s Conservation Partners, yet it has received not one but two fines from the European Commission. The most recent fine, handed down in November 2002, was for Lafarge’s part in a four-year conspiracy to fix the price of construction products. The £250 million fine imposed on Lafarge is the third-largest penalty ever levied by the Commission on a single company.

[5] Superquarry saga.

1991: Redland Aggregates lodge planning application for superquarry.
1993: Western Isles Council approves project. ¥ January 1994: Secretary of State, Ian Lang orders public inquiry.
October 1994: Inquiry begins lasting almost 12 months and costing £2 million. During inquiry a referendum finds that 67.7% of Harris residents oppose the quarry. FoE gives evidence against proposal. 1997: Redland taken over by Lafarge.
1998: Research reveals collapse in aggregate demand.
1999: Inquiry Reporter recommends approval for quarry.
2000: Environment Minister, Sam Galbraith rejects proposal. Lafarge appeals. The Executive says it
will redetermine the decision.
2001: While awaiting the redetermination Lafarge try to establish a quarry using a 1965 planning consent by the old Inverness-shire County.
2002: Ministers accept this 37-year-old consent is valid but only for an area of less than 5 hectares. Lafarge go to court to challenge this decision too.


Lang Banks on 0131 554 9977 or (pager) 07654 200937 or
FoE International (Ann Doherty) on 00 312 06 22 1369