IUCN’s unique space to transform business – and government and civil society too!

IUCN Business Week brought together more than 60 participants from IUCN’s family worldwide as well as 26 representatives from existing business engagements across 5 days at IUCN headquarters, 9- 13 September 2013.

Parting words from Business Week participants (click to enlarge) Photo: Wordle.net

Four years since the inaugural IUCN Business Week was held, the discussion has moved on from whether IUCN should work with business to how can we work better with business? As IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said, “For me, working with the business community is essential to achieving the IUCN mission of conservation for the benefit of humanity.”

The Chatham House rules of the meeting enabled a frank exchange of views on a number of challenging issues. One of the main topics of discussion throughout the week was the nature of transformational change, a key element of the IUCN Business Engagement Strategy. How high is the level of ambition that we should expect from our business engagements? How can we strike a balance between being realistic and yet challenging towards business, government and even within IUCN?

Four initiatives with potential opportunities for collaboration across sectors and regions were also developed further, each articulating a need to go beyond biodiversity considerations to include social aspects. Net Positive Impact created the most excitement with other areas including setting a business standard for operating in Key Biodiversity Areas, valuing natural capital and landscape restoration.

The wealth and depth of experiences with business across IUCN was represented by 19 thematic and regional IUCN programmes providing input into a large mapping exercise of existing engagements, across the three entry points of the IUCN Business Engagement Strategy. These include corporate policy, value chains, and public and financial policy. The presentations highlighted how IUCN’s work with business has evolved from an ad hoc approach towards one that is more strategic and focused on transforming how business values biodiversity. Notable also was a large body of work that aims to change policies and bring this change to affect a larger number of companies.

It was also a time to reflect on and improve IUCN’s internal processes for choosing which companies we work with, improving risk and opportunity assessments, and processes for sharing and communicating more effectively, both across IUCN and beyond. IUCN participants also benefited from a Business Ecosystems Training session led by WBCSD on how to better communicate ecosystems to new businesses.

The week was deemed to be a success by many participants with 80% of survey respondents judging it to be very good or excellent.

The fruits of IUCN Business Week will be shared with the IUCN Council. To this end, IUCN Business Week also benefited from the participation of two members of IUCN’s Council. Two IUCN National Committees, for the Netherlands and France, explained how they interact with French and Dutch business and local governments on relevant national policy.

There are many follow-up activities underway. If you are interested to hear more and/or to get involved, please contact biobiz@iucn.org. A follow up Business Week is planned for 2015, one year before the next IUCN World Conservation Congress.

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