Business & Biodiversity, a momentum like the current one for climate
Between the climate strikes and the pending United Nations Global Biodiversity Framework, the economy is slowly but surely taking centre stage, just as it did with the climate. Who can remember a time when the climate was not an issue in Swiss politics? In the same way, it is likely that Swiss legislation will support measures to encourage companies to promote biodiversity in the years to come. And as with climate change, governments should be able to count the private sector’s contributions towards their national commitments.
The French and freshly released standard, an approach adapted to the conservation
Biodiversity is an issue that demands two qualities from a company: a shift towards spatial considerations and comprehensive, cross-divisional integration. This means that application of the standard requires deployment along the entire value chain, at least ‘from cradle to gate’, as well as cooperation from a wide range of stakeholders (from non-governmental organizations to public administration). The aim is to define measures that pursue quantitative goals. In addition, the results are to be monitored regularly and communicated publicly. A company will then be able to develop a credible biodiversity policy that provides a sustainable competitive advantage.
A tool that meets the requirements of the private sector
The standard can be adapted to any company size:
- A large company can apply it to a single unit or to the entire organization, while a very small company can launch its environmental policy with biodiversity.
- The standard complements and is consistent with ISO environmental standards such as ISO 14001, which facilitates integration into an existing environmental management system. It also enables integration of other policies such as the ‘Science-based targets for nature’ or the national Business and Biodiversity Initiatives.
- It is recognised by the (French) nature protection community and allows them to operate using a common language and with a common methodology. This means that a company can promote the use of this standard to its client base as well as build partnerships on this basis.
Towards an ISO standard, yes to a certain extend
The development of an ISO standard for biodiversity approach is highly in demand, as it provides a methodology with a global reach. The following features would need to be taken into account during the development of an ISO standard in order to ensure that it is broadly applied.
The ISO standard must be modified so that internationally active companies can adapt it. It should therefore be in line with the future Global Biodiversity Framework GBF from the United Nations. In addition, the tools and approaches will evolve over the years to come. These developments are to be reflected in the ISO standard so that the private sector will also be able to benefit from the latest scientific findings. Last but not least, an ISO standard should take into account the growing importance of biodiversity in the economy. After all, the private sector is beginning to develop the financial resources and knowledge to implement biodiversity strategies. Finally, the diversity of political systems represented in the ISO is a major challenge, as the conservation of biodiversity generally concerns public authorities to a great extent. Finding the right level of interaction between the business world and planning authorities will be a complex challenge.
A Swiss standard relating to biodiversity?
The relevance of creating an SNV standard on biodiversity may need to be confirmed by the Swiss stakeholders. In any event, it would be good to keep in mind certain Swiss peculiarities.
The conservation of biodiversity is primarily the responsibility of the cantons, and the cantons also manage most of the available financial resources. This means that a Swiss standard should include a link to the public policies and their action plans. For companies to participate, an environment conducive to innovation is required. A Swiss standard should therefore find a compromise between the different aspirations of the business community and the cantonal administration in terms of their relative timings. It is essential to have all stakeholders in the area of nature protection (including non-governmental organizations and science) recognize a potential standard. The development should therefore take this into account, as only then can companies build on this legitimacy.
A Swiss standard for corporate biodiversity, an important contribution to the conservation
A Swiss standard could accelerate the engagement of the private sector and lead conservation in Switzerland to a version 2.0. Development of such a standard requires solutions that do not currently exist. This breath of fresh air will certainly be associated with new perspectives for Swiss biodiversity both from a financial and an operational standpoint.
So, stay tuned and step out for fresh air!
To deepen this topic, see the article of the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) which includes a lot of additional information (click on the link below):