Many businesses have impacts on the environment through the natural resources they use and the pollution they may produce. At the same time businesses depend on ecosystem goods and services for their continued operations and long-term sustainability. These goods and services are the products of healthy biodiversity and ecosystems.
The raw materials required by many businesses (e.g. water, timber, rubber, agricultural crops) are produced by the functioning of ecosystems, or ecosystem services. For example, crops rely on healthy soils which are produced by the breakdown of plant and animal matter by organisms, and on water which is generated and regulated by intact forests. Many crops require services such as insect pollination to reproduce. These critical ecosystem services are all underpinned by biodiversity.
Yet the environmental footprint of many business operations threatens the services on which they depend. This represents potentially significant business risk to reputation, operational sustainability and legal compliance. The expansion of agricultural lands at the cost of tropical forests, for example, can lead to significant alterations in the quantity and pattern of rainfall that crops (and people and wildlife) depend on. In contrast, appropriate management of farms and farming landscapes opens opportunities for increased market access, access to investment and security of supply.
Biodiversity and ecosystem services (or BES) are inseparable and BROA uses the term biodiversity to refer to both.
Biodiversity presents a range of risks and opportunities for businesses. Risks take various forms:
Businesses can seize varied opportunities through managing biodiversity:
The value of biodiversity and business has been well articulated in the past. See for example Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The relationship between agriculture and biodiversity is crucial. Agriculture depends on ecosystem services delivered by biodiversity to produce crops (soil formation, nutrient recycling, pollination, water supply, pest predation). Yet the continued expansion and intensification of agriculture puts at risk the very services it relies upon.
Agriculture and livestock production have the greatest impact of any sector on terrestrial biodiversity. These impacts occur through the clearance of natural ecosystems to expand production, and through the application of agrochemicals that can have damaging effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.
It is vital that the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes is safeguarded, and businesses are well placed to take the lead on ensuring these landscapes are healthy and sustainable.