At Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), biodiversity has been a strategic priority in the work we undertake with our members since 2014 and remains a key focus area in our latest strategy . Several BITCI members have truly embraced the topic and have undertaken extensive biodiversity enhancement and protection projects on their sites, while also generating awareness on the topic with their employees.
However, it is becoming increasingly evident that anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity loss will contribute to ‘ecological meltdown‘ . There is still a significant amount of work needed to be done by business to halt biodiversity loss and contribute to the goal of becoming ‘nature positive’ (enhancing the resilience of our planet and societies to halt and reverse nature loss).
The risks and opportunities associated with the biodiversity crisis go far beyond businesses’ direct operations. Therefore, as we mark the International Day for Biological Diversity, this article highlights the importance of taking a multi-stakeholder approach to managing biodiversity at your business.
Taking action on biodiversity is not just the job of the facilities officer or landscaper. As our food, fibre and much more depends on the delicate balance of plants and animals in landscapes, we all have a role to play in tackling the biodiversity crisis.
It is very important for businesses to get their employees on board. Businesses should educate their employees on the biodiversity crisis through lunch and learns, town halls and other internal communications channels. Businesses can also use these forums to share suggestions with employees on practical actions to enhance and protect biodiversity in their own gardens and local communities.
There are many environmental non-governmental organisations that offer biodiversity related volunteering opportunities for businesses such as Leave No Trace, An Taisce and other local community groups around the country.
Furthermore, getting out in nature can have multiple benefits in terms of employee well-being, so businesses should consider how they can incorporate biodiversity into their employee wellness offerings.
Rightly so, the climate change crisis has received a lot of attention at local, national, and international level. Politicians, the media, and businesses are acutely aware of the negative consequences of a changing climate and that drastic action is needed to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the biodiversity crisis. However, the two crises are inextricably linked and should not be viewed in isolation. Climate change is threatening the balance of plants and animals at an alarming rate. At the same time, biodiverse landscapes can play a key role in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Business leaders should explore opportunities to integrate nature-based solutions into their climate action plans.
Consideration should also be given on how they can include biodiversity messaging in their advocacy for climate action.
Over the last number of years, there are countless examples of BITCI members taking action to protect and enhance biodiversity on their own sites. However, business action on biodiversity should not stop at the gate of their premises. In order for plant and animal species to thrive, they need rich biodiverse landscapes which often stretch over vast areas of land which go far beyond a businesses’ premises. Businesses should collaborate with neighbouring sites and identify opportunities to establish wildlife corridors.
They should also identify if there are any local threatened species or Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in their locality which they can contribute to the protection of. Lastly, businesses should link in with the local Wildlife Trust or Bird-Watch Group and explore how they can work together on local biodiversity improvement measures. The National Biodiversity Data Centre has a plethora of tools to support businesses taking action on biodiversity in their local communities.
As well as undertaking biodiversity protection and enhancement measures on their own sites and with local community groups, businesses should consider looking at how they can influence the key stakeholders in their value chains. In many instances, major biodiversity impacts and dependencies occur across their value chain. Businesses may be obtaining raw materials from biodiversity hotspots (places that are both biologically rich and deeply threatened) such as Brazil and Indonesia. Businesses should explore if it is possible to reduce or eliminate raw materials from these hotspots but also work with suppliers to undertake biodiversity protection measures.
As many businesses are now working to address human rights and climate risks (Scope 3 emissions) with their suppliers, they should also use this as an opportunity to understand their biodiversity risks. Research should be undertaken by businesses to see if there are any negative impacts on biodiversity in the use and disposal stage of their goods and services and take action to mitigate against this.
Like with all areas of sustainability, not one business can tackle the biodiversity crisis alone and collective action is essential. Businesses must be open to collaborate with their peers on shared biodiversity related opportunities and challenges. For many years, BITCI has been bringing businesses together through our ‘Biodiversity Learning Network’ and member peer circles. This has allowed companies to learn what other companies are doing and apply it to their own business rather than starting from scratch.
The challenges in achieving the objectives set out in the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 have been widely acknowledged. However, in recent months there has been a renewed emphasis placed on Ireland’s response to the biodiversity emergency.
A major overhaul of the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) will lead to a full organisational restructuring of the NPWS, and a substantial €55 million additional investment in the organisation, together with the early recruitment of 60 key staff for critically important roles.
At the upcoming National Biodiversity Conference on the 8th and 9th of June in Dublin Castle, the consultation phase of the new National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) will be announced. The new NPAB aims to foster a ‘whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach’ including business.
2022 also sees the launch of the first ever Irish Business and Biodiversity Platform ‘Business for Biodiversity’. The platform is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and the National Parks & Wildlife Service (Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage), Natural Capital Ireland (NCI), the National Biodiversity Data Centre and Business in the Community Ireland. Drawing on an extensive network of environmental, policy and corporate sustainability expertise, the goal is to help Irish businesses recognise the risks posed by biodiversity loss and take action to halt the growing crisis.
At international level, Business for Nature is successfully bringing together businesses worldwide to demonstrate and amplify a credible business voice on nature and calling for governments to adopt policies to reverse nature loss in this decade.
At local level, several city and county councils across Ireland have developed their own Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPS), businesses should link in with their local authorities and understand what role they can play in achieving the objectives set out in these BAPS.
BITCI is very open to support Irish businesses on developing their own biodiversity action plans, further information on how BITCI works with our members on biodiversity can be found here