Biodiversity means business

BITCI News - May 27, 2015

What is biodiversity? Biodiversity defines life as we know it. It is the nature around us, the food we eat and the raw materials that we use in business. Biodiversity also provides services on which we all rely on, from pollination to flood protection and climate regulation.

GrandCanalDublin_biodiversityWhy does it matter to business?

All businesses depend in some way on biodiversity and natural resources. For some this dependence is quite obvious e.g. forestry, fishing and agriculture depend directly on a healthy biodiversity while pharmaceutical companies depend on biological material in the creation of their products. However, whatever the sector most businesses use natural resources, such as paper and clean water as part of their operations.

At the same time businesses can also have significant impacts on biodiversity either directly or indirectly through the supply chain. The extent of these impacts will vary, with industries in the extractive, construction and energy sectors for example having a more obvious impact. For many other businesses, their supply chain decisions may see an impact on the biodiversity of another country of which they are largely unaware. Understanding and sustainably managing these impacts will be essential for these industries to obtain operating licenses and to develop and maintain good relationships with stakeholders such as local communities.

Businesses and biodiversity are thus intrinsically linked to each other. It is in the interest of businesses that our biodiversity is healthy and sustainable in order for the provision of these resources and services to continue. Because of this interconnection and the reliance of business on biodiversity, damage, loss or disruption to biodiversity can be a serious risk to business affecting supply chains, and therefore your business model.

Unfortunately, biodiversity loss is emerging as a threat equal to that of climate change. As biodiversity disappears, businesses along with societies and governments lose access to the services and resources that nature provides for free. Trying to replace these services with artificial alternatives is at best difficult and expensive; at worst it’s impossible.

Why should businesses take action?

There is a compelling business case to take action to protect biodiversity which focusses around reducing the risks and taking advantage of opportunities. Biodiversity loss could result in the loss or scarcity of key resources on which the company depends either directly or indirectly. In addition this trend is likely to result in increased government regulation. Both of these risks, if not adequately addressed could lead to significant costs for a business and in some cases the very viability of the business threatened.

A lack of understanding or action on biodiversity also has the potential to damage a company’s reputation and affect its investment opportunities as both consumers and investors become more rigorous and critical in how they perceive a company’s risk or view its operations. In addition, damage caused to biodiversity by a company could incur huge clean-up and/or insurance costs which can detrimentally affect the bottom line.

On the other hand, businesses that take action on biodiversity in a timely and strategic manner can gain first-mover advantage, enhance their reputation, save costs and increase potential for investment.

At Business in the Community Ireland, we understand the foundational role of environmental sustainability in social and economic sustainability, which is why we think Irish business has a role to play in ensuring the protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity.

New service from Business in the Community Ireland

We are developing a new service to help our members do something about biodiversity, whether they’re based in a city-centre office or on a large rural site, in the financial services sector, ICT, pharma or extractives. Through this initiative, we hope to inspire Irish businesses to re-frame biodiversity as a valuable business asset that has the potential to create shared value between employees, managers, clients, communities, suppliers, regulators and funders.

Keep an eye on our website for case studies and look out for our biodiversity workshop which is happening in June.

Contact Hannah Hamilton hhamilton@bitc.ie  and Lorraine Fitzgerald lfitzgerald@bitc.ie for more information.