Huge impacts, huge opportunities

Businesses – particularly multinational conglomerates – have a massive impact on our planet. They affect biodiversity in many ways, the most obvious being activities such as mining, timber extraction, oil and gas exploration, monster hydropower schemes and landscape-scale conversion of natural habitat for soya and oil palm plantations and other agricultural uses.

Historically, the instinctive response of the conservation movement to these agents of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss (and their potentially disastrous long-term impact on the so-called ecosystem services such as fresh water, breathable air, climate regulation and timber production on which we all depend) was characterised by open hostility, protest and resistance. Today there is increasing recognition that positive engagement with the business sector has a crucial role to play, and it was Fauna & Flora International (FFI) that instigated the move to a more constructive approach.

Making the business case for conservation

At a time when most conservation organisations still regarded big business as public enemy number one, FFI took the decision to actively engage. We began openly cultivating working relationships with large corporates, particularly those operating in the sectors that pose the greatest potential threats to biodiversity.

This approach is not without its critics, but the rationale is simple: only by working directly with these companies – and with those who invest in them – can we promote sustainable use of natural resources, demonstrate that there is a high price to pay for riding roughshod over community interests and the health of the planet, and encourage businesses to embrace strategies that put biodiversity conservation at the heart of their operations.

We understand the need to maintain the pressure on these businesses, but we also recognise the importance of providing the support and advice that will enable them to take appropriate measures. In an ideal world, we want these companies to commit to having a net positive impact on biodiversity, but where impact is unavoidable, we aim to minimise the damage and ensure – at the very least – no overall net loss of biodiversity. Many other conservation organisations now acknowledge the effectiveness of this pragmatic approach and have since followed our lead.

Working across different sectors

FFI’s primary targets are businesses that aspire to be biodiversity champions in their sector and are demonstrably committed to reducing their environmental impact. The cross-cutting nature of this work dictates that we interact with the business world in a variety of contexts.

Mining and energy

Our Mining & Energy team works closely with a number of global players engaged in large-scale infrastructure projects and extractive activities such as mining, oil and gas exploration and limestone quarrying in order to help them minimise their environmental footprint.

Agricultural landscapes

Through our Agricultural Landscapes programme, we are influencing decisions about land conversion and supply chain management to help protect and restore areas of high biodiversity or ecosystem value, and championing sustainable intensification methods that increase food production while minimising pressure on the environment.

Marine conservation

Within a marine context, our work with companies encompasses such areas as reducing plastic pollution in our oceans, improving the traceability of fish stocks and minimising the impact of oil and gas companies operating in the marine environment.

A discarded plastic garbage bag floating next to a tropical coral reef in the ocean. Credit: whitcomberd/Adobe StockA discarded plastic garbage bag floating next to a tropical coral reef in the ocean. Credit: whitcomberd/Adobe Stock.
Credit: whitcomberd/Adobe Stock.

Conservation Finance & Enterprise

FFI’s Conservation Finance & Enterprise team focuses predominantly on the small- and medium-sized enterprises that are particularly relevant to local livelihoods, securing finance, improving market access and generating vital income for communities engaged in small-scale, sustainable activities such as bee-keeping, dairy production and low-impact tourism.

We also work with financial institutions and accountancy professionals to enhance their understanding of the value of natural capital and help them ensure that their strategic investment decisions and statutory reporting take full account of the biodiversity-related risks, opportunities and dependencies to which their client companies are exposed.

FFI is also promoting the concept of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). This mechanism provides a financial incentive to communities in developing countries to keep their forests standing, thus preventing the release of the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming and at the same time benefiting the biodiversity found in these forests.

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