New tool helping deliver conservation outcomes for agricultural sector

The open source tool has been developed by the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership and is known as the Biodiversity Risk & Opportunity Assessment tool (BROA). The tool, tested and applied across BAT’s global leaf-growing operations, provides a practical, field-based approach for addressing biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes.

The British American Tobacco (BAT) Biodiversity Partnership was formed in 2001 between Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Earthwatch Institute, the Tropical Biology Association and BAT to address some of the challenging issues surrounding the conservation and management of biodiversity in the corporate sector, and particularly in agriculture.

Over the years, the Partnership has run a number of projects around the world that focus on key issues of common importance to conservation and business alike, and has worked to embed the management of biodiversity principles into BAT’s business operations. At an evening debate event this week, the Partnership celebrated the public launch of its field-based BROA tool.

BAT Biodiversity Partnership evening debate. Credit: Lindsey Sandbrook/FFI

The discussion, themed: ‘How can business promote collaborative approaches at a landscape scale?’ was chaired by sustainability advisor and leading environmentalist Tony Juniper. Expert panellist included (from left to right): Professor Kathy Willis, Director, Biodiversity Institute, University of Oxford; Matthew Jones, Senior Programme Officer, Business, Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, UNEP-WCMC; Dr. Rosie Trevelyan, Director, Tropical Biology Association; Dr. Alan Knight, Corporate Sustainability Expert; and Jim Kirke, Leaf Sustainability Manager, British American Tobacco. Credit: Lindsey Sandbrook/FFI

The BROA tool, which was originally developed by the partnership in 2006, has been trialled, reviewed and refined following its use in all 19 countries where BAT runs its own leaf-growing operation. Action and Monitoring Plans have been set up in these countries to address the risks and opportunities found. New local partnerships have formed as a result and issues being worked on include habitat preservation, use of fertilisers and pesticides and sources of wood for curing.

The tool itself consists of a step-by-step Guide and Working Tables to record and score findings, carefully designed to guide an organisation through the process.

Completion of a BROA allows an organisation to identify, prioritise and mitigate risks in a planned and efficient manner. It also provides insight into new opportunities around biodiversity and ecosystem services that may not otherwise have been recognised.

A key feature of the BROA process is that it requires engagement with a variety of stakeholders and collective approval of the resulting Action & Monitoring Plan. Jim Kirke, Leaf Sustainability Manager for BAT, commented during the event that in this way the BROA, “acts as a catalyst for collaboration,” setting it apart from other tools. The BROA was also praised during the discussion for its practical and systematic landscape approach.

Laura Somerville, Programme Manager, Conservation Partnerships for FFI added: “At present, we think British American Tobacco is the only agricultural multinational to have conducted such a comprehensive biodiversity risk assessment of its agricultural supply chain. This means it can base decisions on identified, on-the-ground circumstances of its leaf-growing operations in a strategic manner.”

The tried and tested tool is now freely available from the BAT Biodiversity Partnership website for any companies or organisations wishing to enhance the sustainability of their business and the landscapes in which they operate. By making the tool public, the Partnership hopes that the BROA will be adopted widely by the agricultural sector.