The Time for Biodiversity Business

23 September 2009 | News story

Biodiversity can make a good business. Business can also be very good for conservation. These are the findings of a recent survey of 80 IUCN Members.

In an effort to strengthen IUCN Members’ capacity to develop even more successful businesses, the IUCN Business and Biodiversity Programme (BBP) embarked on a project to determine IUCN Members’ experiences in developing biodiversity businesses as part of their conservation programmes.

The project, funded by the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning, assessed IUCN Members’ needs and determined how to enhance the success of their efforts. It also allowed the Members to share their experiences, lessons learned and challenges encountered in developing such businesses.

Approximately 80 IUCN Members were identified as using business development as part of their conservation programmes. Of these, approximately 63 were short-listed based on further research into their work and subsequently contacted for interview. In this selection process, an effort was made to ensure a fair representation of the countries and regions in which IUCN works. A total of 40 IUCN Members then provided input into the research through semi-structured telephone interviews and by sending reference material whenever this was available. The interviewed Members originated from more than 20 countries worldwide, from Honduras and Botswana to Jordan and Lao PDR. Their businesses included sustainable rattan production, animal plasma manufactured for agricultural fertilizer and handmade paper made from invasive plants.

This project resulted in the publication The Time for Biodiversity Business, illustrating a selection of the many great businesses developed by the conservation organizations that participated in this study. A Guide to Enterprise Development for Conservation Organisations, providing initial ideas on how to set up biodiversity businesses, and a Report on the Lessons Learned from building biodiversity businesses for conservation, were also produced.

One of the key findings of the project is that there are complementary skills and aims between conservation organisations and the private sector. In fact, private sector partners have played an important role in making many of the enterprises created by conservation organisations commercially successful. These partners have supported the development of such enterprises in many ways, from co-financing to providing technical support as well as by including the products and services in their supply chain.

Closely linked to this project, the Holcim-IUCN relationship has developed a concept focusing on Biodiversity-Based Microenterprise Development (B2MD). The main objective of the concept is to assist and guide multinational companies in collaboration with other entities in planning and managing micro- and small enterprise development projects that create sustainable livelihoods in the community and support biodiversity conservation.

Through this research BBP hopes to enable more business-driven partnerships between private sector and conservation organisations in the future. This could help not only by directly creating market incentives for conservation, but also by creating a greater awareness amongst consumers about our dependency on ecosystems and hence on biodiversity.

For more information visit: http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/business/bbp_our_work/biobusiness/