How can biodiversity improve an organisation’s triple bottom line?‘The UN’s decision to define 2011-20 as the ‘Decade of Biodiversity’ highlighted at the highest level the challenges to society which are arising due to biodiversity loss and its impact on the essential ecosystem-services it underpins. The UN declaration underscores the scale of response required across society, including within our economic practices and how businesses work. The decade will bring unprecedented challenges, but also new opportunities for businesses which recognise that the Business of Biodiversity is good business, is sustainable business, business which will be essential for our economic growth and the future health and well-being of people and the environment.’ Bob Bloomfield OBE.
The United Nations focus on biodiversity loss is in recognition of the fact that the two major issues of our time – the sustainable use of limited natural resources for the developments human society and dealing with the growing threat of unprecedented environmental change – can only be addressed through finding bio-diverse solutions. These solutions fundamentally mean approaches which will help ensure the health, wealth and wellbeing of communities and individuals for now and generations to come. There are new and exciting responses which are bringing together government and NGO sectors and particularly with the private sector. Private sector engagement can not only have the greatest potential impact but it is also the sector which is particularly at risk from the threats that the loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services imply.
An IPSOS survey for PwC showed that up to 50% of CEOs in the emerging nations see biodiversity loss as a challenge to growth, meanwhile half of US and European consumers say they would stop buying products that disregard biodiversity concerns. As major businesses become increasingly aware of environmental degradation as a threat to their business continuity they are looking towards a form of P&L accounting which reflects the Triple Bottom Line, measuring their performance financially but also assessing impact on people and the planet.
Biodiversity loss now accounts for trillions of dollar losses to the global economy per annum and yet approaches that seriously use biodiversity to add value, to build business resilience and to help ensure long-term sustainable growth are only just beginning to emerge.
• Have you examined pro-biodiversity business opportunities and innovations that might benefit your profitability, your business efficiency and your people’s welfare?
• Is your company contributing to or undercutting the function of the natural systems in which you source, produce, sell, and recycle or dispose of your goods and services?
• Is your business and your people aware of these impacts?
• Are you taking preventative or restorative action to build resilience and ensure your viability?
• What does the Net Positive Impact (NPI) for biodiversity adopted by Rio Tinto really mean?
• Smart business leaders realise that accounting for biodiversity and ecosystem services in their value chains can generate cost savings and new revenues, as well as improved business reputation and license to operate.
Supporting your business – you can take steps:
1. By investigating how biodiversity is relevant to your business
Bringing environmental literacy tailored to you and your people’s needs; seminars, presentations and workshops on the evidence, its implications and emerging responses by businesses around the world:
• biodiversity loss and its relationship with environmental change and economic development
• A triple bottom-line (3P) approach to P&L and how biodiversity fits in
• ecosystem services and natural capital approaches to market engagement
• biodiversity, commodities and supply chains, managing impacts, building resilience and ensuring supply
• biodiversity and solutions to urban infrastructure and environmental needs.
• biodiversity and people’s health and wellbeing
2. By reviewing your company to identify bio-diverse & business critical opportunities
Biodiversity issues are evident at all levels from local to global and there are many potential responses which could be advantageous for your business, your people and your environment which benefit individual organisations and their triple bottom line.
CEO and CFOs have key roles in driving company strategy and vision. Operating at the board level they are key assessors of the business risks and are important stakeholders for regulators and standard setters. They therefore have a key role in understanding the biodiversity and ecosystem service issues material to their businesses. However Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (BES) issues are emergent and most executive board members have limited awareness of them, given the risks to business there are a number of steps which would enable them to make more informed assessments of the issues concerned:
• by engaging with experts to understand the level to which their organisations depend on natural capital; this would include understanding the degree to which company revenues, costs and going concern status rely on natural capital (both directly and indirectly)
• by ensure that risk and materiality assessments consider natural capital; by doing so to determine if the various risks posed by declining natural capital will have a material impact on their organisations and to implement mitigation strategies to avoid negative impacts on corporate value
• to work with key strategic planning and finance teams to develop the skills and capacity to enable accurate assessment of a company’s impact or dependence on natural capital
• to disclose material natural capital impacts and dependencies, guiding the development of robust disclosure and assurance systems to ensure data quality
• to use their board positions to educate other board members on the importance of BES within key management and strategic decisions
• to both learn from and share experiences with, those already engaged with these issues, and consider how the tools that are used by these companies can be applied to their own operations.
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