Company Implementation

Changing Views on Biodiversity

Reports by the Convention on Biological Diversity and independent third parties such as the McKinsey Quarterly and Pricewaterhouse Coopers draw comparisons from the political debate on biodiversity to that on climate change in 2007 (McKinsey & Company, 2011). The contributors to these reports claim that climate change in 2007 was mostly the same societal debate that biodiversity is today. At the time, the discussion called for the same international solutions, which we have also included in the Mission2015 proposal on biodiversity degradation.

All of these reports, however, indicate that the public and the private sector currently view the issues surrounding biodiversity depletion more pressing than those of climate change in 2007. According to a global survey conducted by McKinsey and Company in 2011, roughly 59 per cent of companies surveyed viewed addressing biodiversity issues as a business opportunity, as compared to the 29 per cent who viewed addressing climate change issues as opportunity in 2007. The McKinsey survey also reports that 53 per cent of companies are already taking action to address the issues related to biodiversity degradation (McKinsey & Company, 2011).

Still, these views on the issues of biodiversity remain sector-specific, especially for sectors that have historically depended on biodiversity and the environment for the materials of trade. Extractive companies (i.e. mining and oil) and the food and agricultural sectors are causing the greatest harm to biodiversity, which makes them tend to be most concerned with biodiveristy issues, and engage in tangible efforts to reduce stress on biodiversity (e.g. reducing pollution, promote genetic diversity, etc.). Energy companies, as well as extractive companies, having received the brunt of public discussion in regards of climate change, consider resolving biodiversity issues of high importance. According to the McKinsey survey, companies within these sectors are most likely to believe that biodiversity poses significant risks within the next three years (McKinsey & Company, 2011).

Companies involved with extraction and agriculture have in turn done much in the past five years to assess biodiversity risk. Extractive companies, particularly mining and drilling, repeatedly cite biodiversity in their risk assessments to investors. Although there is no clear evidence to date that good biodiversity management can give a competitive advantage, extractive companies, unlike most shareholders, are used to planning for 30 to 50 year scenarios and their moves towards better biodiversity risk management indicates the value biodiversity plays (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2007).

In 2000, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, an extractive company, created the "Group Biodiversity Standard" and promised that Shell companies will "conduct environmental assessments, which include the potential impacts on biodiversity", and "bring focused attention to the management of activities in internationally-recognized 'hotspots', including the identification of, and early consultation with, key stakeholders." Since then, Shell has made countless efforts to lessen the company's impact on biodiversity and made new commitments in 2003: promising to not damage World Heritage Sites and to report their activities to IUCN and more. (Shell and Biodiversity: Management Primer, 2004)

According to Shell, "in addition to legal and regulatory incentives, there are strategic, operational, reputational and financial reasons for Shell to focus on biodiversity" with "non-financial risks such as environmental and social issues can be as significant as financial issues." Shell recognized that dangers to biodiversity, especially due to its actions, can lead to public protests while uncontrolled pollution increases costs. Shell expressed concern for meeting the expectations of stakeholders through biodiversity-responsible behavior. While the opinion of the stakeholders is an issue of concern for Shell, an equally important issue is the opinion of the employees and the public. (Shell and Biodiversity: Management Primer, 2004)