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Biodiversity conservation: 'beyond business' CSR

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
31 December 2010
Publisher Name: 
Just Means
Akhila Vijayaraghavan
Author e-Mail: 
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This year was the International year of Biodiversity. Next year has been declared the year of forests. The TEEB report that was released earlier this year finally put a monetary value on biodiversity services and the economic losses that could be incurred if protection is not prioritized. Companies should take notice and incorporate biodiversity preservation into their CSR profiles. I have said this before but it is worth saying again.

The TEEB report was taken most seriously in the UK were now Prime Minister David Cameron made pledges towards conservation efforts before he came into power in May. The population of everything from song birds to butterflies have plummeted to about 80% due to development and intensive farming methods. As a result, conservation efforts are taken more seriously now in the UK with even some companies jumping on board.

Meanwhile in Indonesia which has overtaken Brazil as the country with the highest rates of deforestation, a pilot REDD program is underway. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is taking place in Central Kalimantan. The REDD Task Force described the area as a 'laboratory' for testing strategies and approaches for reducing deforestation. The pilot province is a stipulation under the partnership signed between Indonesia and Norway this past May. Under the agreement, Norway will provide Indonesia up to $1 billion in performance-linked funds.

One of the reasons for widespread deforestation in Indonesia is the production of palm oil. The RSPO has introduced a standard for sustainably grown palm oil and many companies have jumped on board to embrace in a positive CSR move, thereby also supporting REDD.

Earlier this year the Vietnamese government held the  Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program, to discuss to discuss the potential for biodiversity offsets to help Vietnam achieve its conservation and development goals.  Following this initial gathering, the government of Vietnam requested BBOP's assistance as it further develops policies on biodiversity compensation. During the same time the Katoomba Conference highlighted the preservation of mangroves in the Hanoi province and brought together forest officials and businessmen in a joint effort. All of these set the ground for effective transgression of biodiversity conservation into boardrooms of companies and thereby CSR policies.

Biodiversity is what I call 'beyond business' CSR, it does not provide immediate measurable gains to a business like strategic CSR initiatives associated with packaging reduction, energy conservation etc but it definitely does give long-term returns. Externalities are an economic blind spot that CSR tries to reduce but biodiversity goes beyond anything that can be defined in economic terms. There is an intricate spiritual value associated with it: whilst this argument will not fly in boardrooms, breaking it down to economic terms will at least bring the issue to the table.

It leaves to bad taste to quantify something that is so essential invaluable; it makes it petty somehow and available for sale. Unfortunately this is how modern economics works and in order for conservation efforts to be taken seriously, both governments and businesses should start quantifying the loss of biodiversity and lessen their operational impact and think of biodiversity as an uncompromisable unit of their supply chain.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut