Why biodiversity matters for business

  • 14 November 2018

Why does business care about maintaining biodiversity? In short, because biodiversity matters to everyone and everything.

Though it is not always obvious, the astounding biological diversity that makes up our world’s natural ecosystems is what underpins the production of the most common goods and much of our way of life. Products from coffee to cotton rely on biodiverse environments, which have over time evolved into solutions warding off diseases, pests and other menaces.

Today though, the biodiversity of our planet is under severe threat, with so many species disappearing that some scientists are already referring to the current era as a ‘sixth extinction’. The number of large mammals in existence has dropped by 97% in the last century and the Earth has lost 60% of its wildlife between 1970 and 2014, according to the latest estimates by the World Wildlife Foundation. Even in purely economic terms, the value of biodiversity is immense. Services provided by nature are estimated to be worth around US$125 trillion a year. In comparison, global GDP in 2017 amounted to US$75 trillion.

Truly addressing the challenge of biodiversity loss will require leadership and solutions that are both global and local. In 1993, the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force and has now been agreed to by 196 countries. The CBD shows an international commitment to the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

Business stepping up

For its part, the global business community is also stepping up to drive greater progress towards protecting biodiversity and a Global Business and Biodiversity Forum is taking place on 14-15 November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Safeguarding biodiversity requires more than just increasing the number of protected areas. It means we need to manage our resources in a more sustainable way,” said Majda Dabaghi, who heads up ICC’s environmental and energy work. “Business has a lot to contribute in safeguarding and restoring biodiversity. Close partnerships with government will be crucial to achieving this shared goal.”

More companies are taking action for biodiversity than ever before. In July 2018, an unprecedented number of companies in France detailed the concrete steps they are taking to safeguard biodiversity as part of the Act4Nature initiative.

To mention only two of the many companies listed in the report, insurance company Axa is studying new ways of evaluating financial risk that take biodiversity loss into account, which would help funnel investment towards projects that maintain or reinforce natural ecosystems. French cosmetics company L’Oréal pledged that, by 2020, none of its products would be linked with any form of deforestation anywhere in the world. The company will also work to restore habitats that have been degraded, particularly in Indonesia – a country with many sites that are recognised internationally to be especially critical to conserve.

While the individual engagements of companies are encouraging, more needs to be done by all stakeholders, including business. This will require a ‘mainstreaming of biodiversity’, which will be a key focus of the 14th Conference of Parties to the CBD in Egypt this week. At the event, Ms Dabaghi will offer a global business perspective on how to achieve this goal.