By Ashvin Ramasamy

The backdrop of the COP set the stage for initiatives promoting private sector engagement to enhance global biodiversity goals

In the midst of the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the private sector took the spotlight in demonstrating greater desire in protecting the Earth’s natural resources in the yearly Natural Capital Week. Elsewhere, the international entities responsible for safeguarding our global network of ecosystems, species and the environment took a leap to capitalize on that interest by transforming biodiversity from a separate course of action into a horizontal course of action attractive to business values. The final negotiations of the COP also called out to private interests for innovative ways to promote the role of pollinators in the context of natural biodiversity.

The We Value Nature campaign had for aim to shift the general perception that business is bad for the environment and that private actors can tap into significant opportunities when nature is protected. Taking informed decisions — especially with resourced-based exploitation — carries greater positive impact for the business, society and the environment. The campaign, led by a group of European financial and trade association representatives will act as the consultative bridge between the risks and opportunities inherent to our biological resources and the evolving needs of businesses and their consumers. Specifically, the partnership will assist decision-makers incorporate relevant factors pertaining to renewable and non-renewable natural resources along with their societal value into decision-making schemes. This is better understood through the Natural Capital Protocol, a comprehensive framework for evaluating the impacts of utilizing natural resources and applying these factors to high-level business decision-making. The Protocol, launched in July 2016 , has enabled companies better address the drivers and dependencies of their operations on natural resources and to take proactive steps in implementing resource management measures to improve sustainability performance and achieve socioeconomic objectives. Although the latest campaign focuses on European business the model does not exclude major African mining companies, energy refiners, manufacturers and other resource-intensive sectors to increase their uptake of natural resource valuation by overcoming existing technical barriers.

In parallel, the The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) poured efforts in designing new ways of effective business practices in conserving global biodiversity. The goals cut across several criteria, including direct integration of biodiversity goals into decision-making and improving societal benefits from natural resource use. Mondi, a forest commodity company based in South Africa figured in the JNCC research that investigated those recent aspirations. A central criterion for which Mondi served as the backdrop was the creation of ecological networks within production areas and adoption of mitigation efforts to protect ecosystem functioning and an array of concerned species. In fact, Mondi has scientifically-backed measures in place with time-sensitive action for ensuring ecosystem stewardship by 2020, integrated forest management programmes, delineating areas of critically high conservation value, cooperating with stakeholders to protect freshwater resources along catchment areas and aspiring for greater positive impact on biodiversity and freshwater resources in their operational areas. Moreover, the company recognizes the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals in sustainability implementation, aligning its goals with SDG goal 6, 12 and 15.

The literature on the role of pollinators in resource conservation and sustainable use of pollination as an unrestricted service afforded by nature is rich. As part of a revamped International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators for 2018-2030, the CBD emphasized stronger action for limiting the harm done to honeybees. In particular, the introduction of living modified organisms (LMOs) have been characterized as driver to pollinator decline. Greater scientific research has been called upon by leaders of the CBD COP on LMOs and their individual impacts but of immediate action is the greater collaboration of private companies in internalizing policies for and offering assistance to CBD and its partners. Businesses have the capacity to operationalize sustainability plans for enhancing control of nefarious causes of pollination decline and pollinator loss within the context of biodiversity. Across most of Africa, this area of study is of great concern to food security. Why? The wealth, diversity and health of pollinators are at serious risk, noting that about 75% of the world’s food crop benefit directly from some form of pollination. Part of the problem is climate change and invasive alien species, as a combination, face very little defense from ecosystems — which have not evolved to manage such threats.

The implications for a post-2020 biodiversity framework of the CBD have critical importance for all stakeholders, with the private sector touted as leader to promote and assist in the conservation of globally diverse biological resources. With the Aichi Targets — strategic targets implemented by the CBD to achieve biodiversity goals globally — coming to an end in a couple years, the following decade will have yet another far-reaching mandate to preserve the sensitive land and water systems upon which biologically diverse resources depend. Greater urgency is required on the part of companies as the past efforts have largely come short. Though governments and intergovernmental actors must bear a large part of the blame and the private sector must acknowledge it has turned a blind eye to biodiversity goals. In a recent exercise of understanding the implications of the Aichi targets, business representatives of the UK scored high in unawareness of the relevance of at least six Aichi goals in their business. Fortunately, more and more businesses are now affirming that their own actions have been posing harm to the very natural resources on which they rely for turning a profit. While the post-2020 strategic plan is only in the early stages of development, concerted action will be required on the part of all stakeholders, no exception.