Biodiversity climbs the corporate agenda

13 July 2010 | International news release

Business leaders in biodiversity-rich developing economies are concerned about losses of ‘natural capital’, a new report highlights.

Over 50 per cent of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) surveyed in Latin America and 45 per cent in Africa see declines in biodiversity as a challenge to business growth. In contrast, less than 20 per cent of their counterparts in western Europe share such concerns.

The findings, compiled by a study of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), indicate that those corporate chiefs who fail to make sustainable management of biodiversity part of their business plans may find themselves increasingly out of step with the market place.

Another recent survey, also spotlighted in the TEEB report for business, shows rising interest among consumers with 60 per cent of those surveyed in America and Europe and over 90 per cent in Brazil aware of biodiversity loss. Over 80 per cent of those consumers surveyed said they would stop buying products from companies that disregard ethical considerations in their sourcing practices.

The ‘TEEB for Business’ report indicates that scrutiny of big business and its impacts on the world’s natural capital is likely to intensify as better evaluations and assessments come to the fore.

The UK-based consultancy TruCost, on behalf of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment, is set to publish a study on the activities of the world’s top 3,000 listed companies, estimating that their negative impacts or ‘environmental externalities’ total around US$ 2.2 trillion annually.

“Through the work of TEEB and others, the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems is emerging from the invisible into the visible spectrum,” says Pavan Sukhdev, the TEEB Study Leader and also head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative. “It is clear that some companies in some sectors and on some continents are hearing and acting on that message in order to build more sustainable, 21st century businesses.”

“Better accounting of business impacts on biodiversity – both positive and negative - is essential to spur change in business investment and operations,” says Joshua Bishop, the TEEB for Business report coordinator and Chief Economist of IUCN. “Smart business leaders realise that integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services in their value chains can generate substantial cost savings and new revenues, as well as improved business reputation and license to operate.”

The TEEB report cites the case of the multinational mining giant Rio Tinto as one company that has committed itself to achieving Net Positive Impact on biodiversity. In association with leading conservation experts the company has developed new ways of assessing the biodiversity values of its land holdings, and has begun to apply biodiversity compensation or ‘offset’ methodologies in Madagascar, Australia and North America.

Other companies with similar commitments on biodiversity include Walmart (Acres for America initiative), Coca Cola (water neutral by 2020) and BC Hydro (no net incremental ecological impact). In addition to minimizing adverse impacts, business can also generate revenue from conserving biodiversity and delivering ecosystem services. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries all depend on healthy ecosystems to ensure healthy profits.

Notes to editors:
The TEEB for Business report is available at www.teebweb.org

The lead authors and editors of the TEEB for Business report include staff from Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Earthmind, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The survey of CEOs and their attitudes to biodiversity loss was carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

The survey of consumer attitudes to biodiversity and business was carried out by global market survey company IPSOS.

The TEEB project is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme and supported by the European Commission; the German Federal Environment Ministry; the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; UK Department for International Development; Norway’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs; The Netherlands' Interministerial Program Biodiversity; and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

For more information please contact:

Georgina Langdale, Communications, TEEB. Tel: +49 1707 617 138. Email georgina.langdale@unep-teeb.org.
Brian Thomson, Media Relations and Campaigns, IUCN.Tel: + 41 79 721 8326. Email brian.thomson@iucn.org.
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media. Tel: +254 733 632755. Email nick.nuttall@unep.org