Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy

Business, Best Practice and Accountability

The IUCN CEESP Business, Best Practice and Accountability Theme's (TBBPA) mandate is to galvanize members of the commission to enhance dialogue on business, including extractive industries, and development, and related implications for human rights, environmental justice, biodiversity conservation, and accountability of the private sector.
A Shared Resources, Joint Solutions workshop with civil society organisations

IUCN CEESP Business, Best Practice and Accountability Theme Chair

Masego Madzwamuse, Chair - Theme on Business, Best Practice and Accountability Photo: Masego Madzwamuse

Masego Madzwamuse

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The theme draws on inputs from a diverse group of IUCN members and individuals in IUCN and other Commissions in order to create synergies beyond CEESP. As a new theme, TBBPA draws and expands on the work that was previously done under CEESP’s Theme on Social and Environmental Accountability in the Extractives (TSEAPRISE). The programme of work is evolving and currently focused on the three strategic areas, outlined below.1. Accountability in the Extractive and Business Sectors (focus on mining, agriculture, forestry & biofuels, among other extractive/development projects as well as “land grabbing” or large-scale land acquisitions)

2. “Natural Capital” (focus on engaging CEESP and IUCN members in critical dialogues concerning ongoing developments in natural capital debates as they relate to discussions surrounding the valuation of nature vis a vis the rights and concerns of Indigenous Peoples and local communities; we also hope to move forward from previous CEESP work on natural capital and the formulation of ethical frameworks)

3. Environmental defenders and resistances (focus on rights-based approaches to nature, local and Indigenous Peoples’ responses to business and extractive industries, grassroots mobilization movements, and accountability of the private sector, including legal mechanisms and their effectiveness or ineffectiveness in protecting defenders)

A cross-cutting focus area in this theme is how the financialization of nature through private sector engagement is affecting local and Indigenous communities, biodiversity conservation, land rights, and climate change.

How to get involved?

Members are invited to join and contribute to working groups that are designed to drive the themes outlined below;

1) Accountability in the Extractive and Business Sectors - This is an area of work where CEESP has a long historical engagement. Previously SEAPRISE carried out extensive work into extractives and, most recently, working groups on biofuels within CEESP have been formed, leading to a Policy Matters special issue on biofuels certification (Policy Matters Issue 21). The work in this area confirms that greater insights are needed to ensure that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), informed consent, and environmental accountability are meaningfully considered and implemented on the ground. We seek to interrogate the utility of, and go beyond, the development of voluntary guidelines such as CSR to independent monitoring of compliance and implementation, particularly in countries or regions where the capacity of government agencies and the CSO to monitor is weak, or governance and legislation are non-existent

In addition to mining, large-scale investments in land and water (e.g. for agricultural production, oil, hydro-electric dams, etc.) fall under this working group. The expansion of mining operations (both large and small-scale) into World Heritage Sites has also been a major topic of concern to IUCN members, and will also be explored in this Working Group.

2) Natural Capital – At the 2016 WCC in Hawai’i there was robust engagement on Natural Capital from members, Commissions and other delegates. Following Motion 63, which was adopted at the WCC, Natural Capital (NC) has been a key agenda topic both for businesses working with IUCN as well as IUCN members and Commissions. At the 2016 WCC, the “Natural Capital Protocol” was launched, and CEESP members organized workshops and participated in meetings on NC. One of the resolutions emerging from the 2016 Congress was for IUCN to establish an official NC working group to further articulate the conceptual design of NC and to underline the importance of developing an ethical framework. The working group on Natural Capital mobilizes CEESP members to further this dialogue and mobilize action to better inform decisions and developments made on Natural Capital.

3) Human Rights and Environmental Defenders - Global Witness states that, in 2015, more than three people were murdered per week defending their lands from ‘land grabbing’ or environmentally destructive industries. This was said to be the deadliest year on record and the conservation movement cannot continue to turn a blind eye. Environmental defenders face multiple threats and acts of violence as they fight to defend their land (see the latest OHCHR [United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner] report). The human rights and environmental defenders working group looks at the role of business and its intersections with human rights abuses. Opportunities to build alliances between the human rights actors and environmental defenders are explored in relation to this theme. The United Nations’ Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment, John Knox, has been consistently calling for these forms of alliances. A key outcome envisaged by this working group is the publication of a special issue of Policy Matters on Environmental Defenders, to be published within the next year. Check this page for the Call for Papers for the special issue in the last quarter of 2018.

Financialization of Nature: A cross-cutting theme to the TBBPA is an analysis of market-based approaches, including offsets (carbon and biodiversity offsets) and how they are used by business and extractive industries, as well as by IUCN and other environmental groups. Conservation has been increasingly tied to financialization – an area of focus with which CEESP has had a long engagement. Members of TBBPA will examine the design and development of market-based approaches and analyze pros and cons, drawing from research and specific case studies emerging from work carried out by each of the Working Groups and through listserv dialogues. Attention, as with all working groups, is given to implications of the financialization of nature for local and Indigenous Peoples, and actual implementation processes on the ground.

Forthcoming Activities The TBBPA conveners are currently organizing two major projects:

1) Workshop on Social Accountability and Extractives: To be held in 2019, this multi-stakeholder workshop will focus primarily on implementation processes and impacts of large-scale extractive industries. We will ask: Where do things fall flat? Which guidelines work and don't? How effective are voluntary guidelines and international conventions in securing local and Indigenous peoples’ land rights? What questions of value come into being in assessing social and environmental impacts? How can compliance be monitored? While this meeting will primarily focus on drawing data from real case studies on the ground, we will also engage policy-makers and those guiding decisions and designing projects in global circles, including within IUCN.

2) Special Issue of Policy Matters on Environmental Defenders: We are currently organizing a special issue of the CEESP peer-reviewed journal, Policy Matters, dedicated to tracing actual case studies of resistances, plights, and successes of environmental defenders worldwide. The issue will consist of a diverse collection of academic articles detailing the processes, practices, legal hurdles, forms of community solidarity, and violence dealt with by brave groups and individuals protecting their livelihoods, land, and forests against extractive development and, in some cases, tourism and conservation initiatives. This issue will prove to be a rich and timely resource for students, academics, and professionals.

Why you should become a member of the TBBPA:

TBBPA members are individuals with concerns about and expertise on accountability and best practices in the private sector and their interface with conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The expansion of extractive industries and large-scale development projects into biodiversity conservation zones or heritage sites, as well as Indigenous territories, sometimes in the name of land reforms or revised legal mechanisms to welcome foreign investments, has created pressures both on people and the environment – creating an elephant in the room within IUCN as we press forward to protect social-ecological systems. The aim of the TBBPA is to create rich and binding relationships and dialogues to provide space for plural perspectives, leading to meaningful action in order to address these challenges which are not solely a concern of CEESP but of the broader IUCN community. Multi-stakeholder dialogues, such as those that occurred at the 2014 World Parks Congress, as part of the New Social Compact dialogues (Policy Matters issue 20), were a testament to the potential of diverse individuals coming together to share stories, concerns, research, and goals. Our aim is to create a lively and inclusive dialogue, through the listserv and Working Groups, surrounding issues of business, extractives, development, and accountability.

How to engage the TBBPA listserv:

We invite you all to email the CEESP Theme on Business, Best Practice and Accountability (TBBPA) listserv directly and let people know who you are, what you're working on, and how you would like to participate in or contribute to the Theme, particularly the Working Groups, as well as contribute to ongoing debates and discussions on the work of the Theme.


You are welcome to use the listserv at any time to share information, publications, or to publicize events, job postings, or funding opportunities that might be of interest to other members. We hope to stimulate not just debates but relationships between like-minded people committed to making a positive change. Please keep in mind, the 'CEESP Net Ethics Policy' - adopted by the CEESP Steering Committee in 2012, to guide members on the appropriate way to communicate via emails and listservs.

How to join the TBBPA: To join CEESP or renew your membership please send an email to or and refer to the following guidelines:

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