Mainstreaming biodiversity is good for business, says environmentalist

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), said enterprises should start mainstreaming biodiversity into their operations rather than just making it a part of their corporate social responsibility.

Mainstreaming biodiversity is the process of embedding biodiversity considerations into the policies, strategies and practices of businesses so that biodiversity is conserved and sustainably used, explained Lim, who spoke at a recent environment forum organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She said practicing environmental conservation and biodiversity mainstreaming makes good business sense because “nature provides business with the fundamental components for long-term profit and survival.”

Lim said many industries are directly reliant on biological diversity for sustenance. The global multibillion-dollar tourism industry, including ecotourism, is among them, and in the Philippines the development of this sector is assured only if biodiversity is sustained and preserved.

Lim noted how the Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, often referred to as the Amazon of the Ocean, which contains 75% of the world’s reef-building corals.

She added that a large percentage of all species in the world can only be found in the Philippines. For instance, 45% of birds are found only in the country, 59% of mammals, 60% of flora, 77% of reptiles, and 81% of amphibians.

But other sectors are also connected to biodiversity because nature provides the “ecosystem services” they need. These include provisioning services, such as how forests provide bignay, a wild fruit used to make wine; raw materials for clothing like the bakong fibers; and water. As an example, Lim said wild fruits abound in the Philippines and “it would be good to see how these could be sustainably utilized so that you preserve the forest and at the same time you earn livelihood from it.”

Other services provided by the ecosystem include regulating services, such as the way mangroves and wetlands regulate the rise and fall of the sea level and forests regulate temperature, helping mitigate climate change that can be disastrous for industries. The ecosystem also provides support services such as through bats and bees that act as pollinators to propagate the seeds of fruits and the pollen from flowers and trees. Lim mentioned durian as an example of local fruits that rely on the help of these pollinators.

“Biodiversity is good for business,” Lim reiterated. By integrating biodiversity considerations into company policy, operations, and management systems, a company can limit project delays and enhance relationships with stakeholders, and improve its reputation as a responsible operator. More importantly, it can become the company of choice for governments, investors, and business partners while enjoying continued access to key business resources.

Lim thus urges businesses to analyze the impact of their decisions and operations on the biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, and to prepare action plans for integrating biodiversity into their operations.

The goal should be to maximize the benefits to biodiversity of their business and vice versa, while minimizing the impacts on biodiversity of their business, concluded Lim.

The ACB, established in 2005, is an ASEAN intergovernmental organization that responds to the challenge of biodiversity loss by facilitating cooperation and coordination among ASEAN member states and their partners on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

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