Biodiversity stewardship is a fundamental business issue. Biodiversity is the life support system for our planet. There are more than six billion people living on the planet and their livelihoods depend on our planet's biodiversity, in the form of ecosystems, species and genetic material. There may be differences of opinion about the rate of loss, but there is no doubt that ecosystems, species and genes are being lost or damaged faster than ever before. Such a loss undermines the natural richness of our planet and threatens our future sustainability.
Businesses can play a positive role in biodiversity conservation. Business is all about survival. In order to survive, businesses need to generate profits. But today, many businesses have recognised that long-term sustainable development requires good environmental performance and good social performance as well. Biodiversity can be associated with good environmental, economic, and social performance. These elements are consistent with the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity: conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits.
When businesses first began addressing environmental issues, it was usually in terms of risks or costs. Today, addressing environmental issues can be often considered as a form of competitive advantage, as a way to reduce waste, avoid pollution and, more generally, provide better products and services.
Risks and benefits
Not adequately addressing biodiversity issues imposes risks on business operations. A company's position in the marketplace - and indeed its profitability - can be threatened by such risks as:
- Challenges to its legal license to operate
- Public Interest Litigations
- Damage to the brand image
- Fines, third party claims for environmental damages and future environmental liabilities
- Lower ratings in the financial markets
Senior corporate managers need to assess and then manage these risks. At the same time integrating biodiversity concerns in the business strategy, company can benefit at several fronts such as
- Securing the license to operate
- Strengthening the supply chain
- Bolstering stakeholder relationships
- Appealing to ethical consumers, Ensuring sustainable growth
- Attracting socially responsible investors
- Improving employee productivity.
Responsible companies are more likely to attract and motivate good workers to improve employee productivity. Increasingly, companies are recognising that incorporating environmental and social concerns into business plans and processes is essential for lasting commercial success. There is a growing recognition, too, of the need for environmental and social responsibility. Many companies are making significant progress with respect to issues such as pollution and waste management however issues such as ecosystem management and sustainable use of biological resources, and the responsibilities and risks and opportunities for businesses, are less well understood.
To address biodiversity, the following seven steps are important.
- Make biodiversity case for the business
- Identify a senior-level biodiversity champion,
- Carry out a biodiversity assessment,
- Secure board-level endorsement,
- Develop a corporate biodiversity strategy,
- Develop a corporate biodiversity action plan, and
- Implement the corporate biodiversity action plan.