Partners in action: Alex Fraser and Search and Rescue Dogs Australia Inc.

Surprisingly, there are not many places for four-legged emergency service workers to train. Search and rescue dogs need regular access to an environment that replicates an urban disaster zone, so they are ready in the event of an earthquake or building collapse. They also need access to a controlled bushland environment, complete with varied terrain and waterways, in order to practice finding missing persons in the wild.

It so happens that Alex Fraser construction and demolition recycling facilities are an ideal training ground for the heroic canines of SARDA (Search and Rescue Dogs Australia Inc.).

The Clarinda recycling facility is a favourite training ground, offering SARDA the best of both worlds – hillsides covered with thousands of trees, as well as waterways and stockpiles of demolition materials. The dogs and their trainers use these spaces every few weeks to hone their search and rescue skills. They also utilise Alex Fraser’s sustainable supply hub in Laverton for their annual three-day training camps.

SARDA founder and Head Trainer Julie Cowan says that the two sites in Clarinda and Laverton are key locations to simulate the challenging situations and environments needed to train SARDA’s K9 teams: “Alex Fraser is our major supporter, providing training sites depicting collapsed buildings, plus LandSAR (Land Search and Rescue) areas. In addition to that, they help us access vital K9 equipment (working dog equipment) and member equipment, and fund international trainers to attend our annual training camps. We are truly thankful for their support.”

Alex Fraser’s stockpiles of concrete are the perfect environment for search and rescue training, and the more than 40,000 trees at the Clarinda recycling facility provide a safe enclosed environment that replicate’s the bushlands where the K9 teams carry out their real-world missions.

Julie Cowan also explains how the water storage dams at Clarinda are valuable training tools: “Our Labradors and retrievers especially love the water, so any body of water on a training site offers a useful and very tempting area that they need to learn to avoid.” In June SARDA’s dogs were deployed alongside State Emergency Service (SES), Victoria Police teams and volunteers at Mount Disappointment, to assist in the search and rescue of a missing 14-year-old boy.

Hanson Regional Human Resources Manager Jeff Burns says his outlook on corporate social responsibility (CSR) has changed through the experience of working with SARDA. “As a company, we discovered that we could only really make a difference if we shifted our thinking on CSR beyond simply supporting a ‘good cause’, to building specific relationships with community organisations that enable us to join forces and make a material and lasting difference to our communities,” he says.

“Sure, we’re a recycling company and we’re proud to be making a difference every day through our core work. But when we realised our CSR effort amounted to writing cheques for local schools or sporting clubs (all good causes to be sure), we knew we could do more – by redirecting our support from generic donations toward strategic, meaningful partnerships.”

“Alex Fraser’s recycling facilities provide a priceless training environment to SARDA, while our relationship with SARDA builds social value for our business, provides opportunities to our employees to support an important cause and provides our communities with a critical emergency service. It’s absolutely a win-win.”

Sustainability Manager Brendan Liveris says the SARDA – Alex Fraser partnership takes the concept of ‘shared value’ beyond the typical CSR relationship. “It shows that our businesses can provide community organisations with more value through strategic partnerships than we can by simply making financial donations. Seeing this corporate-community relationship in action has highlighted to me that something of relatively low cost to us can be of immense value to a community organisation.”

Alex Fraser, which is owned by Hanson Australia, is part of HeidelbergCement Group. The company’s Sustainability Charter encourages community partnerships and community engagement in order to achieve its ambitious 2030 Sustainability Commitments.