By Isabel Daum, a Carlo Schmidt fellow with IUCN's Global Business and Biodiversity Programme
Systematic transformation of business practices across sectors and regions to value and manage biodiversity as laid out in the IUCN Business Engagement Strategy (2012) can only be achieved if public policies and legal frameworks are effectively aligned. An enabling environment is key to ensuring that all businesses, not just leading companies, mainstream biodiversity into their everyday practices. Such an environment entails national laws and regulations, corporate and financial standards as well as market-based instruments.
But what does IUCN – including its Members - need to know to work more effectively on public policies and regulatory frameworks? And how can this knowledge be applied? These are the questions that brought me to IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme to work as a Carlo Schmidt fellow on a project focusing on enabling frameworks for good biodiversity stewardship by businesses.
I was first introduced to human rights and environmental issues during my studies and all my experiences to date have deepened my understanding of these fields. More specifically, I developed an interest in the intersection of human rights, environmental protection and corporate responsibility while researching large-scale land acquisitions in Cambodia and the legal framework for securing land rights of the country’s indigenous population.
During my Master’s studies in international law, I therefore placed special emphasis on the aspect of corporate responsibility. The case law I dealt with highlighted the problems in securing accountability for corporate activities that negatively impacted human rights and the environment especially in countries with weak governance. I started to wonder what companies could do to proactively ensure that they are not involved in, or contributing to, such activities in the first place, and how they can have these issues addressed by their risk management strategies and operational systems. It became increasingly clear that states and intergovernmental organizations, civil society and businesses need to cooperate to achieve an effective regulation of globally operating firms.
To better understand how policy and regulation can provide the enabling conditions for businesses to integrate social and environmental factors into business decisions, I am compiling and analyzing case studies on IUCN’s experience around the third entry point of the Business Engagement Strategy - supporting public and financial sector policies. This area could arguably have the broadest impact in scaling up and systemically transforming business practices across sectors and/or regions.
IUCN’s Business Engagement Strategy has prioritized two other entry points to encourage transformational and demonstrable change at the company and sectoral level in how biodiversity is valued and managed by businesses by: (1) helping businesses to adopt policies on the ground; and (2) promoting sustainable supply chains.
With more than ten years of experience working with the private sector, IUCN’s business engagements have mainly concentrated either at helping businesses at the site level or on promoting sustainable supply chains. While there is increasing work around financial safeguards (such as the IFC Performance Standard 6), engagements at the site level or supply chain level are not always systematically scaled-up to influence public policies that support healthy biodiversity practice by businesses. Those policies include, among others, creating an even playing field as well as market differentiation mechanisms to reward early adopters; removing regulatory and other types of barriers; and, implementing public procurement standards and best practices in state-owned enterprises. Similarly, engagements on public policies are not always building on effective and innovative business practices.
Guidance for elaborating such supportive policies and regulatory frameworks is increasingly needed to ensure rapid uptake of innovative approaches to biodiversity management that are beginning to mature. These include landscape approaches in the application of the mitigation hierarchy and biodiversity offsets, as well as valuing natural capital.
My project with the Business and Biodiversity Programme therefore aims to develop recommendations on how IUCN - including its Members - can advocate for and frame policies and regulations that support and encourage biodiversity-related business practices. More specifically, it will address how businesses’ and other stakeholders’ experiences with certain approaches to biodiversity management can inform conducive public policies and regulations.
This guidance is also expected to draw on case studies from IUCN’s experience in supporting public policies and regulatory frameworks that have resulted in better business practices related to biodiversity.
If you have any suggestions for case studies, please contact [email protected]