Biodiversity: The next environmental issue for business

Biodiversity loss is one of those excruciatingly pressing issues that most people ignore because its implications are hard to grasp with traditional linear thinking. Most people are not even aware we are living through the sixth mass extinction. Humans have already driven more species to extinction than the meteorite that wiped dinosaurs off the face of the planet. Its consequences are hard to encapsulate in bite-size pieces without undermining its intrinsic complexity; this is why it is a subject that has usually been shrouded in uncertainty, reduced to photos of charismatic megafauna, or simply ignored altogether.

A UN-backed report recently found that one in four business leaders thought the decline in biodiversity was a threat to their business growth and detrimental to profits.

“We are entering an era where the multi-trillion dollar losses of natural and nature-based resources are starting to shape markets and consumer concerns” – UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

This find was echoed in the latest McKinsey Global Survey results:

“…a majority of executives, 59 percent, see biodiversity as more of an opportunity than a risk for their companies. They identify a variety of potential opportunities, such as bolstering corporate reputations with environmentally conscious stakeholders by acting to preserve biodiversity and developing new products or ideas from renewable natural resources.” -McKinsey Quarterly

Running the risk of supporting greenwashing, any publicity is good publicity when it comes to raising awareness about our choices’ effects on the biosphere. However, the most successful businesses in the long run will be those that truly reinvent themselves to incorporate biodiversity conservation into their agenda. After all, considering mass extinctions are such a rare event in the history of the planet, it would seem logical that its prime time for business opportunities that address biodiversity, right?

“Respondents say consumers, followed by regulators, are the stakeholders with the most impact on the actions their companies take to address biodiversity.” – McKinsey Quarterly

I was especially pleased to see how the McKinsey Quarterly  emphasized that it is the consumer that has the most leverage to change the way we do business, above regulators even! You can change the way business is run with every dollar you spend simply through choice. Don’t sit wait for top-down solutions, because the ones on top are waiting for feedback from the bottom-up.