Why Businesses Should Care About Biodiversity

Why Businesses Should Care About Biodiversity

Wetlands restoration - CC license by Flickr user U.S. Army Environmental Command

Just as it's practically standard for companies to measure and report on their greenhouse gas emissions and understand the risks and opportunities they face from climate change, companies are being urged to understand the impacts they have on biodiversity and ecosystems.

But along with having effects on biodiversity and ecosystems, companies are dependant on many of the services they provide. The latest report from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is aimed at educating businesses about such issues and helping them understand why and how to start looking at their relationships with ecosystems.

Biodiversity includes a broad range of ecosystems, species and genes, all of which provide services like recreation, water regulation, carbon storage, food, fiber, fuel, pollination, disease resistance and more. The challenge for businesses is to look into which services they rely on or can effect, determine the value of them and take positive action.

The field of understanding, measuring and reporting on biodiversity and ecosystem services is still relatively new, and the report, TEEB for Business, mentions that while metrics and tools exist, some measurements can be challenging and there is still much work to be done to improve them.

The report looks at what's causing biodiversity loss and ecosystem decline, changing consumer preferences, links between businesses and biodiversity, and existing ecosystem-related initiatives. It also lays out seven steps businesses should take:

  1. Identify impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services
  2. Assess risks and opportunities associated with impacts and dependencies
  3. Develop information systems, set targets, measure performance and report on results
  4. Take action to avoid, minimize and mitigate risks, which could include purchasing offsets
  5. Take advantage of opportunities from cost efficiencies, new products and new markers
  6. Integrate these new strategies and actions into overall corporate social responsibility initiatives
  7. Engage with other businesses, government, NGOs and others to improve policies

TEEB for Business also shows what some companies have done and how measuring the value of ecosystem services has affected business decisions.

Aggregate Industries UK was planning to extend a quarry and had the idea to create a mixture of wetlands and a lake after extracting sand and gravel. After determining the value of the biodiversity benefits of the wetlands, recreational benefits of the lake and increased flood storage capacity it would provide, Aggregate found that the benefits exceeded those of its current use as agricultural land, and the cost of restoring and caring for the land would be low compared to the benefits and the return from sand and gravel extraction

The TEEB study, initiated by the G8+5 and being led by the United Nations Environment Programme, aims to raise awareness of the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services, help develop policies around them and get businesses and citizens involved in the issues.

Wetlands restoration - CC license by Flickr user U.S. Army Environmental Command