Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Reducing Harm or Creating a Positive Impact

Interserve says in its SustainAbilities plan that it wishes to achieve a “Positive environmental impact”, and to “Protect the natural environment”. Simple statements, yet they have profound implications.

The context within which companies approach goals linked to protecting the natural environment is changing. This reframing of conservation and the natural environment poses important strategic questions for Interserve whilst offering business opportunities at the same time.

Here is a summary of some of the major landscape changes which will inform the way Interserve – and indeed all companies – manage the interaction of their businesses and projects with the natural environment, in the years ahead:

From reducing harm to creating a positive impact
The science linked to the loss of species and habitats confirms that it is now insufficient to reduce impacts and that instead a more proactive programme of ecosystem restoration is required as economies develop. If this is not achieved then not only will there be a progressive loss of species and habitats but also a degradation of economically valuable services that these elements of the natural environment provide for society.

Adopting the aim of causing ‘no net loss’ (of biodiversity and ecosystems)
A number of companies have adopted the goal of causing ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity and ecosystems. In practice, no net loss means following a mitigation hierarchy so that the negative impacts of development on biodiversity are reduced and any loss is compensated for by other habitats and their ecosystem services being restored and enhanced.

There are several widely recognized advantages of taking a no net loss approach. It can be an effective business planning tool, it can drive better performance, and it can help with long-term financial and risk planning.

Biodiversity offsets emerging as a mainstream tool
Official biodiversity offsets are now in use in at least thirty-nine countries. The basic idea of an offsetting scheme is that damage caused to biodiversity in one place is compensated by habitat creation or enhancement in another.

There is a strong likelihood that an official offsetting scheme (there is already a pilot) will soon be adopted in the UK. There is also a lot of activity among corporates in relation to biodiversity offsets. One group run by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre is called the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP).

New business opportunities
New business opportunities are emerging from the process of harnessing ecosystem management to meet social goals. These are rarely incorporated into how companies are presently approaching protection of the natural environment, however.

To achieve better engagement with opportunities, companies working in infrastructure, construction and land use could have stronger client offers if they fully understood how to capture the economic and social values offered by ecosystems in how they shape projects, programmes and proposals.

Biodiversity offsets emerging as a mainstream tool
Official biodiversity offsets are now in use in at least thirty-nine countries. The basic idea of an offsetting scheme is that damage caused to biodiversity in one place is compensated by habitat creation or enhancement in another.

There is a strong likelihood that an official offsetting scheme (there is already a pilot) will soon be adopted in the UK. There is also a lot of activity among corporates in relation to biodiversity offsets. One group run by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre is called the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP).

New business opportunities
New business opportunities are emerging from the process of harnessing ecosystem management to meet social goals. These are rarely incorporated into how companies are presently approaching protection of the natural environment, however.

To achieve better engagement with opportunities, companies working in infrastructure, construction and land use could have stronger client offers if they fully understood how to capture the economic and social values offered by ecosystems in how they shape projects, programmes and proposals.

About the author
Tony Juniper is a campaigner, writer, sustainability adviser and a well-known British environmentalist. He is a co-founder of Robertsbridge Group, a partnership of leading thinkers and practitioners in sustainable development and has been advising Interserve on the development of its new plan, SustainAbilities. 

This article was first published by Interserve