AggMan of the Year 2008: David W. Carroll

AggMan Staff | Published on December 1, 2008

Carroll gets results by building coalitions, aligning goals, and creating win-win situations for groups accustomed to working against rather than with one another.

by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-chief


David W. Carroll, Lafarge North America’s (LNA) recently retired vice president of environment and public affairs and current senior advisor/consultant, gives the following advice to his two college-age sons: “Be careful in selecting what your first job is going to be because that’s what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.”

He elaborates that, although a career can branch and diversify, its core is likely to remain the same and should center on work that excites and energizes. Carroll speaks from experience. When he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 and the Georgetown University Law Center in 1971, his first job was with the newly formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Working in the EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, he served on the ground floor as the agency developed its enforcement protocols and procedures. In 1978, Carroll went to the Chemical Manufacturers Association, now the American Chemistry Council (ACC), where he developed an environmental team and litigated several cases against EPA that helped him develop a blueprint on how to engage and influence regulatory agencies from the business perspective. A dozen years later, he joined Lafarge as it began to organize its North American presence, and he created the framework for its environmental policy, procedures, and environmental structure.

Throughout his multi-faceted career, Carroll has excelled at bringing together groups with disparate points of view, engaging them in common goals, and creating benefits for all parties. “I enjoy developing partnerships and relationships with different organizations,” says Carroll. “These people could be your opposition in other circumstances, but we work together as a team.” He says that, although progress is slow, the partnerships have led groups to identify actions that may have long-term impacts.

For these contributions and many others, the staff of Aggregates Manager magazine is pleased to announce that David W. Carroll is the AggMan of the Year 2008.

Building the framework

Carroll’s influence over environmental issues within the aggregate industry began when he joined Lafarge North America in 1990. At that time, the French company was building its presence on this side of the pond through a series of acquisitions. As numerous smaller organizations came together under the Lafarge umbrella, Carroll explains that one of his early responsibilities was to develop an environmental program that created consistency and structure and covered all the operations in the United States and Canada.

“I had to learn the industry, and that involved a lot of travel to some out of the way locations,” he says. “That was important because I could see that there was no structure for managing environmental issues.” In Lafarge’s early days, environmental issues often fell under the umbrella of human resources or operations personnel, and staffing was inconsistent throughout the various divisions of the company. Carroll drafted an environmental policy that described what the company stood for and became the basis for how the company would work on environmental issues. Throughout his first year, he steered the policy through the LNA Board of Directors.

He then began to push not only for structure, but also adequate staffing. “I was, for a long time, a one-man marching band,” Carroll says. “Lafarge has always been fairly thin in its corporate offices, but we’ve made sure that over time we had environmental leaders in the various operations.”

As the structure developed, the number of environmental professionals throughout the organization has grown. Now, nearly every cement and gypsum wallboard plant has at least one environmental manager, and key environmental leaders have been developed in each of the construction materials regional operations. The company also has its own formal auditing plan. “Over time, it has borne some fruit,” he observes. “Ultimately, we had to make sure we had better compliance assurance programs in place with more routine reporting to senior management and more formal auditing programs.”

Forming partnerships

At the same time Carroll was helping to build Lafarge’s internal environmental structure, his influence rapidly expanded beyond the internal organization. “As a close colleague and friend, David Carroll has proven integral in forging vital partnerships between Lafarge and key associations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations),” says Herve Stoeck, LNA’s vice president of environment and public affairs.

For example, when Carroll joined Lafarge, the company’s assets were being run as a string of local operations. Executives recognized that the result was the company lacked impact and influence and sought ways to increase both. “The guy who hired me said, ‘You’ve got a blank piece of paper. What would you do?’” he recalls. His response was to become more active in the many trade associations to which Lafarge belonged.

After having worked for ACC, Carroll recognized that the value of association membership is driven by active involvement. “It’s not just showing up at trade association annual meetings,” he says. “It’s the people who commit for the long haul and volunteer to work on specific trade association projects that end up in leadership roles.” He suggested that the company leverage the value of its association memberships, and he became active in the Portland Cement Association and the National Stone Association (NSA), which later merged into the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA). Carroll lobbied for the hiring of NSA staff members to address environmental issues, even as prior association leadership was resistant to addressing such issues. “It’s no longer an industry that can hide from regulations,” Carroll says. Ultimately, the staff grew to include subject matter experts, became more assertive with regulatory agencies and personnel, and grew its influence over decision makers.

“David has encouraged NSSGA to look at environmental stewardship in a more holistic manner through his leadership and vision in sustainability and biodiversity,” says John S. Hayden, PG, REM, NSSGA’s vice president, environment, safety and health.

In 1997, Lafarge acquired Redland and Carroll acquired another organization membership – this time with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). He attended meetings and thought the council offered an interesting opportunity for medium and large corporations to work collaboratively with conservation organizations. “The aggregate people started first,” Carroll says of Lafarge’s ventures with the organization. “It fit neatly into reclamation activities.” Later, cement and gypsum wallboard operations also joined the efforts. “It helped change how the operations were perceived in the community,” he adds.

During the last decade, Lafarge has had 48 site programs certified as wildlife habitat and another seven site programs meet the criteria for WHC’s Corporate Lands for Learning program. Through that program, operations partner with local schools to bring students to the sites to see and learn about wildlife and conservation in a natural habitat. “When students have a field trip to one of these sites, they just can’t stop talking about the field trip and they just jabber away when they get home,” Carroll says. “They listen and they learn, and that’s the amazing thing.”

The program takes a lot of work, he adds, but can also pay huge dividends. “You go to a public meeting and have your friends from the schools show up,” he says. “The teachers start talking and they are people who are known and respected in the community. These are very potent programs.”

“The exemplary performance of the aggregate business sector in wildlife habitat conservation, and conservation education, is critical to the national and global efforts in meeting sustainability goals for companies and communities,” says Robert Johnson, WHC president. “David Carroll, a board member of the WHC for almost a decade and past chairman, continuously strives to develop new ideas that will assist the aggregate industry in understanding how they can voluntarily use their properties for major gains in biological diversity, and becoming community active learning centers for conservation…his efforts are touching the lives of thousands to help make a better world.”

On Earth Day 2008, NSSGA and the WHC signed a Memorandum of Understanding that established a framework for the cooperation between the two groups to work with industry to encourage participation in the programs of each organization and to engage and demonstrate voluntary corporate leadership in environmental performance, including enhancement and restoration of wildlife habitat.

“Dave Carroll’s commitment to our industry is evident by his display of environmental leadership and active participation in industry organizations,” says Geoff Boraston, Granite Construction’s director of environmental affairs and vice chair of NSSGA’s Environmental, Safety, and Health Division. “Dave should be proud of his accomplishments including facilitating a partnership between the Wildlife Habitat Council and the National Stone Sand and Gravel Association.”

Expanding the sphere of influence

During recent years, Carroll’s work has extended beyond North America and involved addressing environmental issues on an international scale. Throughout the late ’90s, large European companies began to promote sustainability as a way of differentiating themselves as industry leaders, and once again, Carroll served on point for LNA.

“By definition, the construction materials industry is not sustainable. We dig holes and crush stone to make smaller stone. Ultimately, your reserves disappear,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t employ sustainable practices that make your business more responsible and environmentally friendly. It doesn’t solve your long-term problem of what happens when the reserves disappear, but it lengthens the time it takes. It makes it more responsible. It makes it more environmentally friendly.”

While sustainability initiatives have been driven from the European business community, they are slowly making their way to the United States. Barriers to acceptance still exist, however, particularly for smaller companies. “We do not see sales distinguished on whether it’s a sustainable company or not. It hasn’t happened. It’s one of those things that, until that happens, you won’t see more of it. It will not get driven down to smaller companies. They won’t do it because it costs money, and they don’t see the return yet,” Carroll says. “It’s the right thing to do, but until it has a greater impact on the financial bottom line or greater negative consequences, you won’t see a lot more people doing it.”

And although the term “carbon footprint” is slowly becoming common lingo in the American vernacular, Carroll says that he believes that CO2 regulations are not likely to develop quickly in the United States. “If they don’t come up with an agreement in Copenhagen next year (at the United Nations Climate Change Conference), it’s going to take a while,” he says, adding that he doesn’t envy the next person to hold the position as administrator of the U.S. EPA. “Whoever is the next administrator is going to be beaten up. They’ll be on Capitol Hill all the time.”

While future environmental requirements may be difficult to predict, Carroll is much clearer on his next priority: pushing for transportation reauthorization. At press time, he said that he anticipated the federal government would pass a second stimulus package that includes infrastructure investment. Once short-term investments are underway, the focus will shift to longer term reauthorization. “We’ve got a long way to go, but if they’re prepared to make the investment, we’ve got a chance,” he says.

“We have been so pleased to have had David’s support for many years. We greatly appreciated his leadership as chairman of the Quality Growth Task Force and of the Council of Counsel. In addition to serving on a number of NSSGA’s committees supporting the Environment, Safety, and Health Division and our Government Affairs group, David was a member of the task force in helping to shape the association’s recommendations for the nation’s surface transportation reauthorization,” says Jennifer Joy Wilson, NSSGA president and CEO. “Last, but not least, we applaud him for his dedication to improving the environmental stewardship of the aggregate industry.”

Although technically retired, Carroll remains poised to do what he does best – create relationships and accomplish goals. When an acceptable long-term reauthorization plan passes, he says he’ll consider spending more time on his beloved golf greens. And if that sounds like a new take on scaling back, it’s an approach that suits Carroll just fine. After all, he offers up one more life lesson: “If it’s not a lot of fun and rewarding, is it worth doing?”


Vital Statistics:

Name: David W. Carroll

Occupation: senior advisor/consultant to LNA

Family: wife, Elaine Block; two sons, Ethan and Alexander

Education: bachelor’s degree in economics, University of Pennsylvania, juris doctorate Georgetown University Law Center

Hobbies: golf, non-business travel, hiking, and mountain climbing


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