Half of the world’s GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature. Pollination for the agriculture sector, fresh water supply for drinking and industrial use, mangroves for coastal protection and control of natural disaster, forests for carbon sequestration and provision of medicines and food, are some of the examples of nature’s contribution to our lives and livelihood.
However, nature is under stress due to increased economic activity, urbanization and unsustainable consumption of natural resources leading to climate change impacts and biodiversity loss. The challenges of nature were clearly highlighted in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report on Global Biodiversity, May 2019.
The report shows that our activities have significantly altered 75% of the land surface and 66% of global oceans. These trends are much higher in India where we are losing our wetlands at a rate of 3% per year and 22.32% of total land is facing degradation. The report also emphasises on pressures exerted on biodiversity and natural systems, which are likely to increase the contact between animals and humans, leading to a disease spillover.
Businesses, which are a key part of the economic ecosystem are dependent on the natural ecosystem. Considering future population growth and consumption patterns, there is a likely chance of increased stress on natural ecosystems leading to higher level disasters and social disturbances. These will in turn result in increased risks to sustainable business operations. India is one of the 17 biodiversity rich countries having 8% of global biodiversity with 4 biodiversity hotspots. At the same time India is also a developing country aspiring to grow to a USD 5 trillion economy and has the 2nd largest population. On this path of economic growth and increasing population, the pressures on nature will be manifold and there is an urgent need to recognize its value in decision making.
Indian businesses are key stakeholders in the management of our biodiversity. To guide and mentor Indian businesses in biodiversity conservation across their value chain and beyond, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) conceptualised the India Business & Biodiversity Initiative (IBBI) on World Biodiversity Day in 2014 and it is being hosted by CII-ITC-CESD since the last 6 years. The objective of IBBI is to integrate the value of nature in business decision-making and commit to working in harmony with it.
To join IBBI, businesses must sign the 10-point declaration towards their commitment to integrate biodiversity value in business decision making and value chain management. At present, the IBBI platform consists of 40 leading business signatories including Indian and global industries and 12 leading Indian stakeholder organizations including research institutes. The corporate members represent all major sectors of India (including SMEs) and contributed 4.5% of India’s GDP in 2019.
Engaging through this platform, businesses are becoming more and more aware of nature’s inter-linkages with their operations and are working towards shifting to biodiversity friendly operations with a conscience for nature protection and conservation towards long-term sustainable development. Business members from
various sectors have taken leadership in demonstrating their seriousness towards biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services.
In the tourism sector, businesses are developing resort plans considering ways to minimise natural ecosystem destruction and adopting designs to accommodate a maximum green cover. The positive outcome seen through this effort is conservation of native biodiversity especially conservation of endemic species.
This provided benefits by reducing ambient temperature up to 3 degree Celsius resulting in avoidance of space cooling systems (air conditioners) in rooms. Cost saved on electricity is around Rs 1.85 crore per year.
In the agriculture sector, companies are promoting a landscape approach to minimise farming impacts on nature. More and more agri-companies are building capacity on sustainable farming practices that support biodiversity conservation and livelihood enhancement.
With the increasing water scarcity and drought, restoration of ponds, wetlands and catchment areas has proven to lead to improvement of local biodiversity, both terrestrial and aquatic. This is benefiting the local community by reducing the risk of floods in the farming areas, increasing the ground water level and providing alternative income through fishing.
In the manufacturing sector, organizations have adopted nature-based solutions to address dust and noise control though native tree plantations. This has resulted in reducing dust levels by 60% in the premises and reducing noise level by 30%. Investment in water conservation measures to reduce the dependency on the water sourced from rivers, ponds and ground water has resulted in cost saving, reducing risk due to non-availability of water and minimising pressure on natural water sources.
Companies operating in the spices sector have come forward and integrated biodiversity friendly practices into their backward integration and integrated pest management programmes. They are driving production of sustainable spices through reduced use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides fulfilling the food quality standards of global market requirements. By collaborating with the local and tribal community, spice companies are exploring the opportunity of using local native crop varieties that support better yield and quality. This is leading to genetic conservation and cost-effective benefits to farmers.
As more and more businesses are understanding the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, they are engaging in making informed decisions by incorporating nature’s value. More than 40% of the business members have undertaken the ecosystem service valuation studies using IBBI’s Valuation Tool and have integrated the value in their business action plans to reduce pressure on nature. This is enabling businesses in budgeting increased investments towards management of risks due to biodiversity loss, degradation of ecosystem services and building resilience to climate change impacts.
Over the years, IBBI has driven the change across many business value chains supporting businesses to align themselves in harmony with nature. Today IBBI houses a pool of businesses which are biodiversity champions and are inspiring others to follow. The platform also includes companies which are slowly and steadily evolving to be biodiversity friendly, SMEs learning to become sustainable and businesses practicing sustainable supply chain management.
Businesses under this platform have supported in successful implementation and compliance of regulatory regimes related to environment and biodiversity, evolved best practice case studies showcasing their efforts to address socio-economic issues and represented Indian industry voice at various international forums and conventions. Indian businesses through their various initiatives and programmes have contributed towards fulfilling India’s 12 National Biodiversity Targets formulated by MoEFCC.
In the journey of the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to build a better and a stronger new nature agenda for the coming decade, Indian businesses, through IBBI, are actively engaging to raise voices and commit to SMART Global Biodiversity Framework to halt nature loss and reverse the trajectory of ‘business as usual’ by adopting the transformative change needed to balance business and nature. For an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, it is crucial for businesses to adopt living in harmony with nature and set its positive footprint at the global level.
The article first appeared in the August 2020 issue of CII Communique. Click here to read the full issue.