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Increasing Role Of Private Sector In Biodiversity Conservation: India And Sustainability Standards 2017 Conference

It is important for corporates to develop an understanding about the linkage of their operations with biodiversity and ecosystem services to future-proof their business

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During the India and Sustainability Standards 2017 Conference organized by Centre for Responsible Business, there was a session on ‘Business and Biodiversity for Environment Sustainability: Issues, Resolutions and Actions’, where best practices and lessons learned by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were shared with the wider business community, across certain key sectors, with players of the private sector elucidating on their efforts for biodiversity conservation.  The session was co-hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In the resolutions and actions part of the session, Deeksha Vats, Joint President, Sustainability, Aditya Birla Group, spoke on the Biodiversity Management System (BMS) at Aditya Birla Group, a conglomerate, saying, “To get businesses to think about biodiversity is an ongoing process. Our sustainability model is based on responsible stewardship, stakeholder engagement and future proofing including our supply chains. Biodiversity in included in our responsible stewardship pillar. We would approach biodiversity management with screening, BES Inventory, Biodiversity Impact and risk assessment and mitigation and management. We do impact identification, quantification and evaluation as per biodiversity technical standards, and then came up with the biodiversity management plan.

“There are benefits to investing in biodiversity, because of the provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services and support services.  There is growing public pressure that companies must be held accountable, more regulations and more stringent requirements to get permits/clearance and as a resource-intensive business, biodiversity conservation is important to long-term resource strategy“, said Sandeep Shrivastava, Sr. Vice President, Corporate Environment & Sustainability, Ambuja Cements Ltd on Biodiversity Conservation and Management at Ambuja Cements Ltd, focusing on the cement sector. He also added, “We are the first cement company to be assured ‘water positive’. We have also made efforts in restoring and reusing mined outlands. There is also the integration of biodiversity done in the post-closure stage. We have a risk matrix used to prioritize efforts in biodiversity conservation. We have a monitoring system to monitor changes in biodiversity conditions using the Biodiversity Indicator and Reporting System (BIRS).”

With regards to the mining and steel-making, Hishmi Jamil Husain, Head, Environment & Forest, Tata Steel Ltd, spoke on the Corporate Biodiversity Policy and Implementation at Tata Steel, saying, “We have embedded SDGs in our corporate policy, especially the ones related to biodiversity. Most of the biodiversity impact happens due to our raw material extraction, because of which we need to ensure sustainability. Our biodiversity policy’s goal is to achieve a net positive impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem, with a biodiversity management plan in each of our operations. We also have an external review done by our Biodiversity Management Plan.”

Yashada Kulkarni, Lead Associate- Biodiversity, Tata Power Ltd, spoke on the Power Sector and integration of Global Biodiversity Standards into corporate policies of Tata Power, saying, “We have sustainability in our mind when we think about our business. We realize we influence the neighbourhood, the market and the environment. We look biodiversity management at the enterprise scale, site scale and the individual scale. At the enterprise scale we look at the governance and expertise on biodiversity. We have a dedicated biodiversity management vertical within the company.” She also added, “We have a Tata Power Sustainability Advisory Council including experts from various fields of sustainability including biodiversity. We have a biodiversity strategy in place which is about ntegration Biodiversity management in company operations, taking up projects on biodiversirt conservation that go beyond our fence, and inculcating a culture of care for nature conservation. At the site scale, we have a bidoiversity action plan which includes compliance, impact minimzation, management and additional conservation actions. On the indivudal scale we run awareness and sensitisation campaign for our employees.

“We have lots of biological conservation efforts at our company. Mining has impact which are not local, but are seen at other places, so mitigating these impacts is a challenging task for us. We need to restore the soil which is taken out during coal extraction“, said Wajjala Vivek Babu Addl. GM (Forestry), SCCL, speaking on the coal mining industry and environment policy and biological restoration of coal mines by SCCL. He also added, “We also have awareness building through exhibitions and awareness promotion in mines for the workmen.”

Industrial growth of all forms is either dependent on one or the other ecosystem services and often impact negatively the ability of ecosystems to provide these services. Businesses cannot afford to ignore its indirect or direct dependence and impact on ecosystem services, especially given the evidence of such approach/attitude on business continuity and growth. Thus, it is important for corporates to develop an understanding about the linkage of their operations with biodiversity and ecosystem services to future-proof their business.