National

Biodiversity
and Business

Network

Biodiversity and business

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of living organisms on Earth or in a specific area or ecosystem. It also includes the diversity of genes within species populations. The diversity of genes, fauna, and flora are all key components in healthy, functional ecosystems.

Why is biodiversity important for business?

Biodiversity is the foundation for all life, the resources we depend on, and the essential services provided by ecosystems. It underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development. A biodiversity dependency refers to the business use or reliance on goods and services derived from biodiversity. These services, which include the supply and filtration of water, flood attenuation, pollination, etc., are commonly referred to as Ecosystem Services.

What impacts does business have on biodiversity?

Businesses impact biodiversity by changing the state of an environment. These changes can be negative, such as transforming and fragmenting habitats, polluting the air, fouling water courses, destroying wetlands, introducing alien or invasive species, or decreasing species populations. However, they can also be positive when businesses restore wetlands and other habitats, set land aside for conservation, protect and nurture wildlife on their properties, and implement other measures to improve the health and resilience of ecosystems and the wildlife they support.

How we reduce the impacts of business on nature

The natural environment plays an important role in the value chain of any business. We work with innovative business leaders to identify and manage the business risks and opportunities that result from their interactions with the natural world. The EWT’s National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN) provides a platform for businesses to proactively engage with each other and discover solutions that lead to sustainable business growth and many exciting business opportunities, such as new sources of revenue and the opportunity to reduce production costs. Companies are facing increasing pressure from consumers who want to know that they are dealing with responsible corporate citizens, and the impact that companies have on biodiversity is a critical element of this. At the same time, local and global policies urgently call for the private sector to mainstream biodiversity.

Partnerships and collaboration
Robust science and evidence
Mainstreaming biodiversity
Skills and capacity development
Sustainable impact

What is the National Biodiversity and Business Network?

The EWT) recognised the need to assist businesses in integrating or mainstreaming biodiversity into their strategies and activities. To this end, the EWT established the National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN) in 2013, in partnership with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, De Beers, Pam Golding Properties, Nedbank Limited, Hatch, Pick n Pay, and Transnet. In 2016, the list of NBBN partners grew to include Woolworths and Eskom. The NBBN aims to facilitate a reduction in the impact of business on biodiversity in South Africa. We achieve this by assisting businesses to account for their biodiversity footprint and developing and disseminating tools and guidelines which enhance the capacity of business to identify opportunities related to biodiversity. The NBBN also presents capacity-building events that support businesses to proactively engage with each other and share solutions to environmental challenges that lead to sustainable business growth.

Biodiversity Disclosure Project

The Biodiversity Disclosure Project assesses corporate biodiversity impact and actively engages with companies to disclose and continuously improve their performance.

What is a biodiversity footprint?

A Biodiversity Footprint is the total impact (both positive and negative) that a business has on ecosystems and species. An example of a negative impact would be habitat degradation, and a positive impact would be restoring habitats. Once you know your footprint, you can inform, implement, and monitor actions to reduce negative impacts and strive towards having a measurable positive effect on the environment.

The EWT’s NBBN calls for businesses to join the growing network of companies initiating steps towards mainstreaming biodiversity into their practices. Please click here to find out how you can address the risks to your business from biodiversity loss, and account for your impacts to ensure your business is sustainable.

The Biological Diversity Protocol

Developed by the NBBN, the Biological Diversity Protocol (BD Protocol) is the first and only standardised accounting framework designed to help an organisation consolidate its impacts on nature and biodiversity. Through double-entry bookkeeping, allowing for the reporting of both cumulative and periodic change, businesses can assess and disclose their negative and positive biodiversity footprints.

After a year-long public consultation, we launched the open-source BD Protocol online in March 2021. The BD Protocol resulted from a two-year collaborative, multistakeholder effort made possible with funding from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust. Writing the protocol was an involved task, given our collaboration with more than 40 co-authors and contributors. The virtual launch was very successful, with over 100 business representatives, consultants, and the like joining the call from over 20 countries. After the event, the team received great feedback, with requests to translate the BD Protocol documentation into several languages, including French, Spanish, and Danish. The BD Protocol has received increasing international attention, such as by the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity of the CBD, and, in May 2021, was listed on the official resource list of the EU Business@Biodiversity website.

Through close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, the BD Protocol has been developed to provide companies with an accounting and reporting framework which helps consolidate, in addition to several case studies and supporting material here, in addition to several case studies and supporting material.

Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Business Toolkit

The NBBN produced a toolkit to help integrate biodiversity into your business strategies and activities. You may build the business case for biodiversity by identifying the biodiversity risks and opportunities specific to your company. Undertaking biodiversity mainstreaming will raise several questions and challenges for your business and its stakeholders. Answering these will require strategic thinking, time, action, and resources.

Please click here to access resources for mainstreaming biodiversity into business.

Stories of Success for
biodiversity and business

How well do South African corporates incorporate biodiversity into their policies?

As part of the Biodiversity Disclosure Project, the NBBN conducts an annual corporate biodiversity performance assessment of all companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and several State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). In 2021, we assessed how well each organisation integrates biodiversity policies and actions directly into its business strategies, investments, and production processes. This was the third assessment and involved 327 JSE-listed companies and 27 SOEs. We base each organisation’s rating on questions following the steps of our biodiversity mainstreaming journey.

Our methodology has been recognised internationally, including by our Spanish partners at Ecoacsa – a company offering business solutions to measure and value natural capital – and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Together, they have used our rating criteria to evaluate the biodiversity performance of the IBEX 35 Exchange – the benchmark stock market index of the Bolsa de Madrid, Spain’s principal stock exchange – enabling us to compare industry performance across the globe. The proportion of companies mainstreaming biodiversity in the two exchanges was similar for most sectors, except for energy, where the IBEX 35 scored better (53% IBEX 35, 14% JSE), and basic materials, where 57% of South African companies recognised biodiversity as a material issue, compared to 24% in Spain.

Lift-off for the Biological Diversity Protocol (BD Protocol)

After a year-long public consultation, we launched the open-source Biological Diversity Protocol (BD Protocol) online in March 2021. The BD Protocol resulted from a two-year collaborative, multistakeholder effort made possible with funding from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust. Writing the protocol was an involved task, given our collaboration with more than 40 co-authors and contributors. The virtual launch was very successful, with over 100 business representatives, consultants, and the like joining the call from over 20 countries. After the event, the team received great feedback, with requests to translate the BD Protocol documentation into several languages, including French, Spanish, and Danish. The BD Protocol has received increasing international attention, such as by the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity of the CBD, and, in May 2021, was listed on the official resource list of the EU Business@Biodiversity website.

Assisting the JSE with their sustainability disclosure guidance

In 2022, we assisted the team helping to craft the JSE Sustainability and Climate Disclosure Guidance biodiversity metrics to call for companies to measure, manage and disclose their biodiversity footprints. The Guidance is aligned with and draws on the most influential global sustainability and climate change disclosure initiatives. And seeks to help companies navigate the landscape of reporting standards and to provide explicitly for the South African Context. Learn more about this in our webinar hosted as part of the African Green Economy Conference.

What you can do to mainstream biodiversity into business

  • Check out your company ratings
  • Approach us to use the BD Protocol to measure your corporate footprint
  • Add your voice to the business engagement to act as a positive force for the conservation of biodiversity
  • Learn from peers and influence thinking in the biodiversity space
  • Be seen as a leading business in support of biodiversity mainstreaming