Lisbon marks major shift in convergence between business and biodiversity

Companies, governments, European Union and NGOs reach agreement on next steps

More than 400 leaders from business, governments, the European Union and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) meeting in Lisbon have signaled a major shift in thinking on the role of business in biodiversity conservation.

Convergence between public and private sectors on the critical importance of biodiversity – the rich diversity of animals, plants and nature that supports us all – and what needs to be done now to stem a steadily worsening global crisis, emerged at the conference.

Francisco Nunes Correia, Portugal’s Minister for the Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development, said: “Current development patterns are unsustainable and biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. Business has a crucial role in preserving biodiversity, and Europe can be a world leader in making this happen on the ground.”

CEOs and senior directors from major European companies in many sectors also showed surprisingly strong consensus on the business case for putting biodiversity at the heart of their companies.

António Mexia, CEO of EDP Energias de Portugal, the largest energy utility in Portugal, said: “When it comes to biodiversity, the sky is the limit. Given our company policy on corporate social responsibility, we have no other choice than to make biodiversity partnerships work.”

A Message from Lisbon was released calling on business, governments, the EU and NGOs to:

  • Continue raising awareness of the strong competitive advantage companies can gain from conserving biodiversity;
  • Promote the use of market, corporate responsibility and regulatory schemes;
  • Support business with operational tools for biodiversity conservation and measuring their performance in meaningful ways, especially in small and medium sized companies; and
  • Encourage new incentives to develop and strengthen partnerships between companies, governments at all levels, NGOs and academia.

It is clear that European businesses are quickly waking up to the importance of biodiversity, and the market opportunities it can offer, in their business strategies,” said Peter Carl, Director General of the Environment Directorate of the European Commission. He added, “The European Commission is committed to supporting the key actions in the Message from Lisbon.”

While CEOs and environmentalists might still sometimes use different terminology, the Lisbon conference showed just how close their thinking has become on protecting biodiversity before it is too late.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, praised the frank exchange of views and the willingness of key players from all sectors to work together. She said: “No one sector has all the answers. The wide range of large and small solutions needed to avert a breakdown in biodiversity will only be successful if companies, governments and NGOs work more closely together.”

Biodiversity is being increasingly seen as the foundation that underpins all economic, social and cultural activity on the planet. Destroying biodiversity – whether through climate change, pollution or the unsustainable use of natural resources – could irrevocably damage the water, food, air and other natural resources that humans, and our societies and businesses, depend on.

The Message from Lisbon will be followed up at the EU Council in December this year, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s meeting in May 2008 in Bonn, and the IUCN World Conservation Congress in October 2008 in Barcelona.


Notes to editors

For more information please contact:

John Kidd, World Conservation Union (IUCN), Tel: +41-79-417 4049 (Swiss mobile); Email:

Sandra Moutinho, ICNB, Tel: +351-932-735 614 (Portuguese mobile);  Email:

About the High Level Conference on Business and Biodiversity

The conference, hosted by the Portuguese Presidency of the EU and the European Commission took place in Lisbon from 12-13 November. The conference was organized by ICNB (Instituto da Conservaçáo da Natureza e da Biodiversidade), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the Countdown 2010 Initiative.

The conference saw more than 400 senior figures from business, government, the European Union and NGOs meeting in Lisbon to plan out the next steps in making businesses more involved in biodiversity conservation. More than 200 CEOs and senior managers from 150 major companies participated in the conference, along with government ministers and senior administrators from 19 European governments and more than 50 NGOs.

More information, including the conference programme, speakers, stories, background papers, and the text of the Message from Lisbon can be found at:

About the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

The World Conservation Union, also known as IUCN, is the world’s largest conservation network. The Union brings together 83 States, 110 government agencies, more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The World Conservation Union is a multicultural, multilingual organisation with more than 1,000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.

About ICNB

ICNB (Instituto da Conservaçáo da Natureza e da Biodiversidade) is the Portuguese authority responsible for nature conservation and biodiversity protection policies. The organization manages all protected areas in Portugal, including the Natura 2000 network.

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