Nature provides the foundation for the raw materials and processes needed for industrial production, commerce and trade. Today, companies are facing many nature-related challenges including water scarcity, climate change, over-exploitation of natural resources and pollution, all of which can threaten their future viability. At the same time, a company’s ‘licence to operate’ in a particular country or gaining access to global markets increasingly depends on sound environmental credentials.

With business seen by many as an important player in nature conservation, IUCN is working with companies from large multinationals like Holcim, Shell, Rio Tinto, TATA, and Kuoni, to small, emerging enterprises in developing countries, encouraging them to adopt measures that reduce their environmental impact. It also shows how business can make a positive contribution to biodiversity, ecosystems and the services they provide. By working with industry leaders to generate positive change, it is hoped others in the field will follow suit.

Through various studies and on-the-ground experience, IUCN helps companies demonstrate that conserving biodiversity makes good business sense: Companies can increase their revenue by responding to increased consumer demand for responsible products, obtain the license to operate by addressing civil society’s concerns, make savings by using natural resources more efficiently, and improve their access to capital. All these benefits are clearly reflected in a company’s bottom line.

More and more companies are making money from nature’s services in sectors such as nature-based tourism, natural health products, agriculture, and the food industry. IUCN supports businesses of all sizes in implementing good practice, ensuring that their use of biodiversity is sustainable. It aims to raise biodiversity performance standards across different sectors of the economy.

IUCN also helps find solutions for specific conservation problems that industry faces in their operations. Examples include the establishment of a scientific panel to advise on the impacts of oil and gas production on a threatened whale species; the relocation of a soda ash plant to protect Lake Natron in Kenya; and in Ghana, collaboration with Unilever to develop a sustainable alternative to palm oil.

Our work on business and biodiversity is part of IUCN’s broader priority area of ‘greening the world economy’. Through this approach, IUCN helps decision makers reform economic policies and markets to better support nature conservation. It also works to ensure that the impacts of economic decisions, trade and investment on biodiversity are properly addressed and better managed.

This month we take a look at some of IUCN’s work on greening business and the economy, some of the challenges we face and the results that we’re seeing. Listen to interviews with members of our team, read about our projects and test your knowledge with our quiz.