May 20, 2021 | Maria Diffley

Why Biodiversity Needs to be on the Boardroom Agenda

There has been a welcome injection of urgency around sustainability in all facets of life in the past year or so; not least in how we operate our businesses. Thankfully, many companies are striving to leave a lasting legacy beyond profit, striving to boost the economy with employment opportunities, offer communities their support to thrive and promoting a healthier, safer world to exist in.

Often, I find people over-complicate the validation for sustainability, especially when considering where biodiversity fits into the mix for the average business. So, my thoughts on the matter today are incredibly basic.

  1. Business is nothing without people.
  2. People are nothing without health.

This last year, more than ever before, has proven that whilst we used technology in a better way to ensure we could carry on operating, machine learning or AI has not taken over in our businesses. In fact, it showed just how vital people are for the survival of commerce.

It is impossible to maintain good health without a clean and thriving ecosystem which provides us with clean air, water and the nourishment we need from food to survive.

Secondary to people, many businesses need access to good quality and adequate quantities of raw materials to operate. Shortages of these raw materials in any industry damages the bottom line, which in turn leads to unemployment, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

If we take a snapshot of just a few industry sectors, we can see the real need for biodiversity to be viewed as a boardroom matter:

  • The health of our workforce depends on the ability of the food industry to meet production, but unfortunately, we have seen climate change and degradation of nature intensifying the production risks faced by the food industry.
  • · Have you ever driven to a scenic spot and been disgusted and disappointed by the litter everywhere? I certainly have and it’s plain to see the economic benefits that clean landscapes, beaches and protected coral reefs bring through tourism - a vital stimulus to many economies.
  • · The pharmaceuticals sector depends on natural raw materials derived directly from many plant and animal by-products, affecting the ability to treat and cure illness around the world.
  • Covid-19, a pandemic resulting from a failure to protect the natural barriers in an ecosystem, managed to destabilise financial markets globally. Financial institutions and investors are expecting disaster recovery plans to include corporate responses to potential future pandemics before providing access to funding. Biodiversity is important in this risk management agenda because every species of plant or animal on the planet plays a different role in the maintenance of the ecosystems of which they are a part. The higher the levels of biodiversity, the stronger the ecosystem and the better its chances of recovery in the face of natural disasters.

Due to the potential of the Construction Industry to have disruptive impacts on habitats and ecosystems, that sector has quickly become a leader in conservationism. The Smart Cities movement has focused heavily on the promotion of green space within the urban settings, forming a vital component of more efficient and healthier city living.

In recent years we have seen a rise in the adoption of ecological assessments in building standards such as BREEAM and LEED. This is because protecting and improving the biodiversity in ecosystems can enhance the environmental quality of our increasingly urbanised living and – as a growing body of evidence shows – improve the health, wellbeing and even productivity of building users.

All of SustainIQ’s construction clients are taking steps to protect and enhance the ecological value of their sites and buildings, by preserving natural areas, maintaining ponds, building habitat highways and bee-friendly planting etc. On the SustainIQ platform for each project, our clients can appoint a Biodiversity Champion, upload ecology reports and record any initiatives/recommendations to produce a biodiversity log for the BREEAM assessor. Contractors use this to produce a Landscape Management Plan.

Many SustainIQ clients have committed to reporting their performance against the UN Sustainable Development Goals assessing which goals are applicable to their business. SDG 15 is Life on Land. This goal serves to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

In my opinion EVERY company should be reporting against this goal. Even if you are an office-based services company, there are many ways in which you can have a positive impact on the biodiversity of your local area and every company has at least the realm of influence to promote the importance of biodiversity to its staff. BITC has produced a useful guide for employers who want to ‘green’ their workspace.

In business, growth and profit have long been traditional indicators of success, but if we intend on our businesses being here in 20-30 years or wish to offer a decent quality of life to our children’s children, we need to align business success now with the conservation of the planet’s biodiversity. The climate crisis and the need for protection of nature go hand in hand. Climate Change is on the boardroom agenda of all but the most blinkered of companies by now. Biodiversity needs to be there too.

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Now in use on over 500 sites across the UK and Ireland, SustainIQ’s client base goes beyond Northern Ireland and beyond the construction sector including clients in the FMCG and Transport sectors amongst others.


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