GreenBiz Reads

Can businesses practice profitable conservation?

conservation concept
Shutterstock Man As Thep

In this book, I focus on a key idea, which I call "profitable conservation," mean­ing any action that benefits wildlife, biodiversity and business. A long list of actions may meet that criteria; however, as the late, great, personal development guru Jim Rohn used to say, "There are always a half-dozen things that make 80 percent of the difference" for any area of life. In this book, you’ll learn the half-dozen things that businesses can do that make 80 percent of the difference when it comes to benefiting wildlife, biodiversity and the bottom line. 

The "half-dozen things" I selected are based on my work experience as a conservation biologist and corporate environmental manager. I’ve also added some insights from the numerous environmental lectures and conferences that I’ve attended over the years, including target audiences that wore tie-dyed and flannel shirts, animal costumes, camouflage and tailored suits. I feel comfort­able in any of those settings and have learned that each of these perspectives represents a valid and important piece of the conservation puzzle.

While each audience may approach things from a different angle, they’re all interested in knowing the answer to the question, "What can we do to help pro­tect biodiversity and the environment?" However, different audiences will take actions that are aligned with their expertise. For example, government agencies will create incentives and regulations to steer efforts in a direction that helps them move forward with their important conservation work; nonprofit organi­zations create conservation strategies and solicit donations from individuals and businesses to fund their important conservation work; corporate-sustainability managers develop a business case and pitch it to senior management to get approval and funding to move forward with their important conservation work.

This book will tackle, head-on, the big question with which corporate man­agers all over the world typically struggle: "What environmental investments are worth pursuing for my organization?"

Of course, the answer to this question is the ever-popular, "It depends."

The answer depends on a variety of factors including company strategy, pressure from customers and competitors, and the regulatory environment. To help you answer this question for your organization, we’ll look at success stories from a variety of corporations and industries and discuss the key factors that you should consider in determining if a strategy is a good fit for your business.

While biodiversity and wildlife conservation may not be a top-of-mind pri­ority for many companies today, it will become more of a concern in the years to come. Biologists are alerting us to the fact that we’re experienc­ing major losses of wildlife habitat and biodiversity throughout the world, and they’re taking steps to minimize the damage. Corporations, on the other hand, are expanding operations and hoping to grow. It’s just a matter of time before the actions of corporations and biologists collide. Corporations will face increas­ing stakeholder scrutiny and pressure to do their part to protect our planet’s biodiversity and wildlife. This is already happening in some industries, and this trend will continue to increase as we witness the extinction of more species.

As a conservation-biology and corporate-sustainability geek, I’m passion­ate about biodiversity conservation and the role of corporations in protecting biodiversity. Corporations play a critical role in biodiversity conservation. After all, corporations own a significant chunk of the land throughout the world, and their operations and purchasing decisions have direct and indirect impacts on our planet’s biodiversity and limited natural resources.

This book attempts to bridge the gap between the efforts of corporations and the efforts of biologists to protect our planet’s wildlife, biodiversity and natural resources. Fortunately, conservation versus profit is not a zero-sum game where the winner takes all. There are many win-win scenarios, which are good for business (reduced costs, reduced risk and increased profits) and good for biodiversity (healthy species, populations and ecosystems).

I’ll provide a clear action plan on what corporations can do to help protect biodiversity and wildlife as well as guidance on how you can implement those strategies in your organization. 

This book is divided into three parts: 

  • In Part 1, we’ll look at the corporate and biol­ogist perspectives on the topic of biodiversity and natural resource management, including a primer on corporate environmental-man­agement strategies to help you better understand how companies manage natural resource and environmental issues. Then, we’ll put on our conservation-biology hat and see how biologists view the topic of biodiversity conservation and discuss the all-important business case for biodiversity and natural resource conservation. 
  • In Part 2, we’ll dive into various profit­able-conservation strategies that corporations can choose, which have the potential to benefit business and biodiversity, along with guidance on how to implement these strategies. Each chapter will close with a list of action items to help you identify your best course of action for that topic.
  • In Part 3, we’ll walk through four case studies that feature businesses from a variety of industries. This will give you a better idea of how other companies approach and practice biodiversity and wildlife conservation. These companies aren’t perfect, but they provide a good representation of the broad spectrum of profitable-conservation approaches that companies are taking to protect wildlife and biodiversity. Then we’ll close with a call to action that applies to each us, as individuals, regardless of what we do for a living.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’ve written this book in a conversa­tional style, which I hope you’ll find easier and more enjoyable than a traditional textbook. To increase the odds that you’ll finish this book, I’ve also decided to keep it short and to the point. I won’t try to impress you with technical jar­gon, complex theories and academic references. Instead, I’ll provide just enough information to help you identify action steps that make sense for your business along with key points that may help you sell your ideas to senior management. If you walk away with one to three ideas with which you’ll experiment in your organization or your own life, then I’ll consider this book to be a fantastic success.

As someone who’s been in the trenches, implementing corporate-sustain­ability and conservation-biology programs and projects, I’ll stick to what I know best: sharing best practices and ideas on how to develop and implement profit­able-conservation strategies for your organization.

Well, enough of my yacking. Let’s dive into the world of profitable conser­vation.

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