EWT celebrates the International Day for Biological Diversity with a business summit

By Catherine Kühn, EWT National Biodiversity and Business Network.

EWT Senior Manager Sustainable Financing, Kishaylin Chetty, sharing information biodiversity planning


In recognition of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) on 22 May 2024, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN) hosted the first of four workshops for 2024 for its Business Advisory Group (BAG) members.

This summit is part of a project spearheaded by the NBBN and supported by the international policy and advocacy group, Business for Nature (BfN).

South Africa is one of four countries to receive support from BfN as part of their Business Action and Advocacy for the Planet project, with the aim being to provide guidance to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) on Biodiversity and Business-related topics. This includes how to effectively incorporate the private sector in the implementation of the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework in South Africa.

Working with Malaysia, South Africa, Columbia and Chile, BfN supports business-government dialogues to ensure the role of business and financial institutions is fully recognised in their updated National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). The NBSAPs are the policy tool to ensure successful and effective implementation of the CBD. South Africa’s NBSAP currently covers 2015-2025 and is under review.

Dr Gabi Teren, Programme Manager of the NBBN, says:  “South Africa, has in many ways, an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in this space”. Because all businesses depend on biodiversity in some way, the responsibility is on business and government to ensure that transformative policy measures required for this sector to make a positive contribution to the natural world, are in place.

It is hoped that through the BAG, businesses and financial institutions will be able to contribute effectively, and meaningfully, to the 30×30 biodiversity targets which state that 30% of terrestrial and marine areas need to be formally conserved by 2030. According to South Africa’s Land Audit report, 2017, estimates suggest that about 79% of South Africa’s land is privately owned. This includes agricultural lands, game reserves, and other types of private property.

The event on International Biodiversity Day unpacked the challenges and gaps for South African businesses to successfully mainstream biodiversity into their business practices.  Around 40 delegates representing 27 businesses, State-Owned Enterprises, and advisory organisations, including SANBI and several financial institutions, participated in the BAG meeting held at the Country Club Johannesburg in Auckland Park.  The turnout was heartening as it conveyed a clear message that businesses are willing and keen to learn more about biodiversity mainstreaming and what this means for their industries.

Taking the form of an interactive dialogue, the workshop focused on Target 15 of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework which encourages businesses to assess, disclose and reduce biodiversity-related risks and negative impacts in their field of operation. This means that businesses are being urged to ensure they comply with the  Frameworks’ targets  to help them increase their positive impacts and reduce their negative impacts on the environment.


EWT Senior Manager Sustainable Financing, Kishaylin Chetty, sharing information biodiversity planning


One of the key insights that emerged at the workshop was that biodiversity often takes a back seat to climate change in business strategies.  This highlighted the role that organisations like the EWT have in helping to guide businesses in South Africa to incorporate biodiversity decision-making into their business practices. Unlike climate change, where some disclosure requirements are  mandatory, biodiversity-related disclosure practices are not. Through the awareness raising work that the EWT’s Biodiversity Disclosure Project has been undertaking with their biodiversity performance ratings of South African companies, this is beginning to change. We are also hoping that through the BAG dialogues there will be awareness raising around this very issue.

During the workshop delegates provided feedback on the outcome of breakaway sessions noting, amongst others, that there is a strong need for capacity building, training, and awareness initiatives tailored for businesses that have chosen to embark on a biodiversity mainstreaming journey. They also commented that the numerous tools available are overwhelming for many businesses, hence the need for more training on how to use these tools effectively and appropriately.  

There was a collective narrative that called for more clarity in South African policy frameworks, as well as more comprehensive enforcement of South Africa’s robust legislation. A noteworthy comment that also came out of the BAG was that Civil society, financial institutions, and investors need to realise the power-key they hold in steering the achievement of the sustainability goals through their influence.

What this means is that these stakeholders (consumers, investors, finance) should be asking for information about companies’ sustainability risk and impact management to make informed decisions. This information will help hold companies accountable, and drive demand for products and services with more positive and less negative impacts on nature.  

The in-person workshop, which was pivotal in highlighting the challenges, gaps and the needs still hindering the way forward in the biodiversity mainstreaming journey for businesses in South Africa, is to be followed by three hybrid workshops in the coming months.  One attendee pointed to the importance of the event as it provided perspective of what other industries were doing and the various approaches to biodiversity in the broad sense.

Other delegates noted that “they’ve never felt so engaged in a workshop like this before” and many agreed that the outcomes of this workshop would ultimately assist in informing national policy aligned to the GBF and ignite further conversations and actions that will pave the way towards a healthier and more positive relationship with nature.

If you feel your company should add their voice to this important dialogue, please contact Catherine at CatherineK@ewt.org.za and follow www.nbbnbdp.org for project updates.


Ntakadzeni Tshidada addressing the group on behalf of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).