Biodiversity, economics and business

Since its creation in 1948, IUCN has been engaging the private sector to help conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. In this context, the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme (BBP) was established in 2003 to influence and support private partners in addressing environmental and social issues. The ESARO Business and Biodiversity Programme was established in 2011. The Programme's key priority, based on a strategy approved by IUCN Council, is to engage the business sectors that have a significant impact on natural resources and livelihoods.

Over the past years, IUCN has gained experience in business engagements, demonstrating that companies can change the way they operate in a manner that benefits biodiversity and the lives of the people who rely on it. In the process, these engagements have generated:

  • Shared visions around contentious issues related to conservation and business that have, in many instances, led to innovative solutions. Examples include IUCN‐International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) platform for stakeholders to discuss and seek the best balance between the protection of important ecosystems and the social and economic importance of mining.
  • Tools and approaches designed and tested to bridge the knowledge and trust gap between the conservation community and the business sector. Examples include the Biodiversity Management System designed by an Independent Expert Panel for Holcim; and the verification protocol developed to add rigor to Rio Tinto’s approach to net positive impact.

Three entry points of IUCN's Business Engagement Strategy are outline below:

Business & Biodiversity ESARO

Business & Biodiversity ESARO

Photo: Business & Biodiversity ESARO

The Programme is working on improving the sustainable management of the natural capital by the private sector, especially through the development of the natural capital protocol. “Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value (directly and indirectly) to people, such as the stock of forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans. It includes the living aspects of nature (such as fish stocks) as well as the non-living aspects (such as minerals and energy resources). Natural capital underpins all other types of capital and is the foundation on which our economy, society and prosperity is built.'' - The Natural Capital Committee.

The ESARO Business and Biodiversity Programme (ESARO BBP) respond to the objectives of:

  • Minimizing the environmental footprint of the private sector and enhancing its contribution to biodiversity conservation.
  • Creating enabling institutional and governance environments to support private sector investment in natural capital.
  • Developing green enterprises that build economic value on natural capital.
  • Making the business and economic case for the sustainable management of the natural capital to contribute to the post 2015 sustainable development goals in the region.
  • Making the business case for nature base solutions as a way to support sustainable development in the region.
  • Facilitate collaboration and partnership between the private sector, government and NGOs in the sustainable management of the natural capital.

Successes of the Business and Biodiversity Programme in ESARO

The Business and Biodiversity programme has been successfully established and has built a number of strategic business, academic, government and civil society partnerships across the region, particularly in the extractives industries and agricultural sector. Two flagship programmes, the Fair Coasts Programmatic Initiative (comprising Fair Coast I and II) and the Black Mountain Mining Biodiversity Partnership, which are seeking to minimise the environmental footprints of mining and extractives companies, creating the enabling institutional environment for business-conservation collaboration and helping to mitigate and offset impacts on biodiversity in South Africa and Mozambique, while also building the capacity of local and civil society organisations to better engage and benefit from development through environmentally sustainable social and livelihood upliftment. Both programmes are medium to long-term initiatives that rely on building trust and demonstrating value both to the mining and extractives companies but also to local people who are in such great need of protection of their natural resources and development of tangible livelihood benefits.

A third initiative, the Sustainability and Inclusion Strategy for Growth Corridors in Africa (SUSTAIN-Africa) has also been developed to find and implement solutions in African growth corridors to achieve ambitions of an inclusive, climate-resilient and green economy will require close partnerships among the public and private sectors and rural communities. SUSTAIN-Africa currently aims to increase knowledge, skills and capacities in local communities (especially smallholders, including women farmers, and their household), business, NGOs/CBOs and governments on how to manage water, land and ecosystem to build climate resilient water and food security in agricultural growth corridors. In this context, SUSTAIN aims to leverage/foster business development and partnerships, innovation, learning, evidence-gathering and policy innovation to increase the sustainability and inclusiveness of growth corridors as they are developing across Africa. Businesses, as well as social investors, play a strong role in creating the partnerships and investment flows needed. SUSTAIN Africa is currently implemented in Tanzania and it will be implemented in Mozambique.

Additionally the programme has achieved a footing in East Africa, conducting a study on the cost-benefit analysis of large scale and artisanal small scale mining in the Karamoja Region of Uganda to establish the economic, social and environmental cost and benefit analysis of mining and to support a more equitable and formalised artisanal mining sector in Uganda. This study has already been well received by the government, the private sector and communities who see the study as key to better understanding the mining sector and improving the regulatory framework for mining in Uganda. IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme is well placed to build on this, to play an objective role in stimulating dialogue between different sectors (governments, small and medium enterprise, civil society and large business) to enhance the sustainability and fairness of benefits realized from mining (particularly small scale artisanal mining). This would be achieved through the creation of enabling institutional frameworks for the effective management and the creation of inclusive dialogue and platforms for diverse stakeholder engagement and interests at local and national levels, in order to ensure responsible mining development and biodiversity conservation.
The programme has also mainstreamed the business and biodiversity agenda in existing programmes and projects in IUCN ESARO, facilitating an integrated approach to conservation and development for IUCN ESARO.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Marie Parramon Gurney, Regional Technical Coordinator, Business, Economics and Biodiversity . Email: Marie.Parramon@iucn.org

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