The growing demand for energy, precious metals and minerals from an expanding human population is placing enormous strain on the planet’s finite natural resources. Worse, in the name of economic growth and commercial profit, mining, oil and gas exploration and large-scale infrastructure development are encroaching on some of the world’s remotest and most pristine landscapes, with potentially dire consequences for biodiversity.
Since 1999, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been tackling this problem head on, working with many of the global companies whose extractive activities pose the biggest threat to the integrity of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems that we are striving to protect.
Our goal is to prevent the loss of biodiversity, but we are realistic about the need to appeal to the self-interest of big business; our starting point is to demonstrate how a company’s bottom line ultimately depends on conserving the biodiversity and ecosystem services that underpin its own activities, and on ensuring that the environmental impact of those activities is at a level acceptable to local communities, global consumers and investors alike.
We engage with companies that are demonstrably committed to integrating biodiversity into their strategic planning, risk assessment processes and operations on the ground. Typically, these are global companies, but FFI also works with smaller companies at a local level in landscapes where unsustainable activities pose a threat to biodiversity and community livelihoods.
To help these companies understand the environmental, social, operational and financial consequences of their impact on biodiversity, FFI conducts independent baseline studies, risk assessments and impact assessments (which take into account the role that ecosystems play within the broader landscape) and promotes wider engagement with local communities and other key stakeholders.
We follow up by developing conservation management and biodiversity action plans to ensure no net loss of (or better, a net gain in) biodiversity, and we put in place measures for long-term monitoring and evaluation. All our interventions are both strategic and pragmatic, ensuring that standards and policy agreed on paper are implemented in the field.
Where we find evidence that a proposed project will inevitably result in a net loss of biodiversity, we say so, and say so forcefully. If our recommendations go unheeded, we reserve the right to walk away, and will not hesitate to voice our opinion publicly. Companies proposing to work in World Heritage sites, for example, would not only automatically fail our due diligence, but also feel the full weight of our opposition.
FFI has a variety of tools at its disposal to improve business practice and ensure better outcomes for biodiversity. One such mechanism is the so-called mitigation hierarchy, whereby companies follow a series of steps that require them – in order of priority – to avoid, minimise, make good or compensate for damage.
We are actively involved in numerous industry-wide forums and cross-sector initiatives such as the International Council on Mining & Metals, the global oil and gas association for environmental and social issues (IPIECA) and the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative.
FFI continues to spearhead the drive towards best practice, encouraging businesses and those that can influence corporate actions to strive for a net positive impact on biodiversity and ecosystems. In 2017 we published a seminal good practice guide – the first of its kind – for oil and gas companies operating in the marine environment.
Humans are inextricably linked to the environmental landscape within which our daily lives unfold. We depend completely on nature for a stable climate, clean air and water, and food.
Find out how conservation initiatives can address the needs and rights of local people.