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.

The Business and Biodiversity Programme was established in 2003 to influence and support private partners in addressing environmental and social issues. The Programme's key priority, based on a strategy approved by the IUCN Council, is to engage the business sectors that have a significant impact on natural resources and livelihoods. These include large 'footprint' industries such as mining, and oil and gas, biodiversity-dependent industries including fishing, agriculture and forestry, financial services and “green” enterprises such as organic farming, renewable energy and nature-based tourism.

Businesses rely on natural resources for their production processes and depend on healthy ecosystems to remove waste, and maintain soil, water and air quality. At the same time, businesses can have major negative impacts on biodiversity. While the private sector is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution—it can offer innovative solutions to conservation. By addressing their environmental footprint, companies can open up new opportunities, respond to consumer demand for responsible products, pre-empt new regulations and save both costs and natural resources.

IUCN seeks to build an action-based relationship with the private sector that goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility obligations, addressing the root causes of environmental degradation. The Business and Biodiversity Programme provides a wide range of expertise: It builds bridges between stakeholders, carries out independent scientific assessments, and develops conservation policy standards and tools. IUCN’s Private Sector Engagement Strategy and the related Operational Guidelines are used to guide and monitor IUCN’s engagement with the private sector.