Increasingly, the private sector is being recognized as a crucial link for safeguarding biodiversity and delivering sustainable development.
From Pyeongchang to Addis, and from New York to Paris, businesses are being asked to step-up and contribute to implementing global agreements that will make our planet a healthier place to live. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are no exception.
At the 2014 CBD Conference of the Parties, governments specifically requested business to help implement the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which must be carried out by 2020.
In addition, governments agreed to cooperate with the CBD Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity and its associated national and regional initiatives, which aim to assist businesses in reporting on their efforts to mainstream the Aichi Targets.
The challenge remains, however, that most companies are not aware of their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services, or on the numerous benefits that safeguarding species and habitats can bring to their operations and supply chains.
Additional data is needed to help inform and trigger greater business engagement, and this includes ensuring businesses are equipped to report on their contributions.
In response, through its Business Engagement Strategy, IUCN has focused on building bridges to the various business sectors, enabling a learning environment that has fostered shared goals, backed by the latest knowledge and scientific rigour.
Whether it is helping business adopt new practices to minimize their impact on biodiversity, promoting new standards to enhance their sourcing activities, or supporting public and financial policies that integrate biodiversity values in decision-making, collaboration is a critical approach to safeguard biodiversity.
For example, efforts to advance a Net Positive Impact (NPI) on biodiversity started by engaging with Rio Tinto and extractive industries to see how this approach could be applied at the site level, and then over time it expanded to working with other partners and members, including Shell, The Nature Conservancy and the International Finance Corporation. In addition, IUCN recently examined how an NPI approach could be applied in the forestry and agriculture sectors, and UPM, a Finnish pulp and paper company, was one of the companies that participated.
Such cross sector collaboration seeds innovation.
A recent IUCN-led effort on behalf of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) brought together 14 companies, including Norsk Hydro and Tetra Pak, as well as 14 NGOs, including Flora and Fauna International and the Forest Peoples Programme, to develop a sustainability standard for the aluminium industry. Now, an independent organization, ASI plans to use this standard to develop a certification programme, which several companies have already committed to support.
All of the companies that IUCN works with on biodiversity issues are seeking more explicit guidelines to measure their impacts on biodiversity. There have been several laudable efforts to date, including those by World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the French IUCN National Committee, which developed a guide on corporate biodiversity reporting and indicators.
In an attempt to harmonize this work, the Natural Capital Coalition – a global multi-stakeholder platform with members from business, accountancy, consultancy, academia, policy and government -- is developing a Natural Capital Protocol for Business, which should be released in June 2016. Its intent is not to invent new methods, but to build on the existing approaches for valuing natural and social capital.
All of this is good news for biodiversity and business. Finding ways to scale-up collaboration with the private sector so they can deepen their understanding and contribution to the globally-agreed Aichi Targets and new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be one of the main themes that IUCN will bring to the table at the 2015 CBD Business Forum meeting from 11-12 November in Helsinki.
Director of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme