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Mainstreaming biodiversity management into business practice

The current ecological crises facing the world are a major result of humanity no longer living off the dividends of natural capital, but rather depleting the natural capital. Businesses are a major consumer of natural resources, hence critical to any efforts to address this issue. It is in this context that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) of South Africa partnered with the National Business and Biodiversity Network (NBBN) undertook a study to assess the current approaches and practices of South African businesses in South Africa, titled Overview of Current Approaches and Practises of South African Businesses to the Mainstreaming of Biodiversity. A Preliminary Assessment. This report was commissioned by the DEA, and authored by Dr. Marie Parramon-Gurney, with inputs from Dr. Joel Houdet (African Centre for Technology Studies), Mr. Kiruben Naicker (DEA), Dr. Harriet Davies-Moster (EWT), Ms. Shelley Lizzio (EWT) and the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, University of Pretoria.

Thirty three companies, which are either part of the NBBN or the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, were analysed. The key findings from this study were that 40% of these countries did not have a clear understanding of biodiversity management and risks, and more than 60% had not undertaken any assessment of their level of dependency on biodiversity. Furthermore, most of these businesses understood biodiversity conservation from a corporate social responsibility perspective and not as core to their businesses. Reporting of business impact on biodiversity was also very limited, as opposed to reporting on water, climate change and energy. Interestingly, only 10% of these companies mainstreamed biodiversity management across strategic, managerial and operational levels.

These findings clearly indicate a major gap of mainstreaming biodiversity management by businesses. Key recommendations from this study, aimed at addressing these gaps, are to increase understanding of the need to mainstream biodiversity management into the strategic, management and operational levels of businesses; improve the assessment of business risks and opportunities related to biodiversity; and information sharing and capacity building, among others. Of particular note is the need to develop and use network platforms such as the NBBN in South Africa, and the and the soon to be formed Kenya Business and Biodiversity Network.

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