UNDP-BIOFIN India supported the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in organizing a conclave on “Engaging the Corporate Sector in Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Resources” on 26 November, 2021 in New Delhi to create a platform for developing detailed understanding about the scope of contribution of the private sector to conservation and sustainable use of biological resources in India.
The event saw participation from over 50 representatives including senior government officials, industry chambers and corporates from a wide range of sectors including Energy, Automobile, FMCG, Airlines, Manufacturing, IT, Tourism, and Banking & Finance.
Representatives from the government and UNDP highlighted existing policy frameworks and initiatives like the Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures, Access and Benefit Sharing and BIOFIN which provide tools and resources for the private sector to engage in biodiversity conservation. “The country’s national and international commitments cannot be achieved without corporate engagement”, Dr. S Kerketta, Advisor, MoEF&CC said, “The corporate conclave is an important platform for the companies to showcase their initiatives that contribute towards biodiversity conservation outcomes.”
“The dependence of economy on natural resource proves that any risk for biodiversity is a risk to business”, shared Ms. Annabelle Trinidad, Senior Technical Advisor, Biodiversity Finance Initiative, UNDP. India is one of the frontrunners in implementing the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism, which incentivizes the local communities – the true custodians of natural resources – to conserve their local biodiversity and ensure sustainable use.
Select corporates were invited to present their current initiatives on biodiversity conservation, some of which have been documented and recognized under the India Biodiversity Awards, an initiative started by UNDP in 2012 which has since been institutionalized by the Government of India.
Godrej & Boyce, Coromandel International, National Thermal Power Corporation and TVS Motor Company Limited highlighted the various biodiversity conservation initiatives being taken by them in and around their industrial complexes.
“When companies adopt the beyond compliance approach, it provides a myriad of opportunities to meaningfully engage and contribute to biodiversity conservation”, shared Ms. Tejashree Joshi, Associate General Manager (Environment and Sustainability), Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
This sentiment was echoed by Mr. K.V.R Murty, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, who urged the corporates “to implement measures beyond CSR activities, put biodiversity conservation at the heart of their operations, and share best practices with industry counterparts for greater adoption and better impact.”
Delegates were also familiarized with the emerging concept of Social Stock Exchange (SSE), which has been envisioned by the Ministry of Finance and will shortly be launched through the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) which provides an avenue for large and institutional investors to venture into impact and social investing. SSE is a regulated funding platform, which can become as an enabler of capital access for Social Enterprises (SEs) working in the field of biodiversity conservation.
Partnering with the private sector
A key area highlighted was the support needed by the private sector in enhancing their capabilities to understand the impact of their business operations on biodiversity and identifying the potential areas where they can contribute towards its conservation and sustainable use.
To address this gap, BIOFIN India has partnered with the India Biodiversity and Business Initiative (IBBI) and NBA to launch a ‘Certified Training Programme on Building Resilience to Climate Change & Biodiversity Loss’ targeted at mid-level managers in the private sector. Two batches of the programme have been conducted in 2021. Going ahead, more training batches shall be conducted, and the programme will also be upscaled for higher management including CSR and Sustainability heads of private sector organizations.
Representatives from industry chambers pointed out the need for a quantitative framework or index that can measure businesses’ impact on biodiversity and help in creating a mechanism to incentivize biodiversity-friendly behaviour among corporates.
Private sector not only brings in capital, but also an immense capacity for R&D and innovation. Their problem-solving approach towards business can be harnessed to meet biodiversity conservation goals.
Mr. A. Sivakumar, representing Hindustan Unilever Limited, shared the company’s global commitment to achieve a deforestation free supply chain by 2023. “To incentivize more corporates to adopt the ABS mechanism”, he suggested, “either the ABS contributions of companies can be considered a part of the CSR efforts, or ‘ABS credits’ can be given based on the CSR contributions.”
Government of India has launched a National Mission for Biodiversity and Human Well-being. The mission has adopted integrated approaches and ensured participation of a wide range of stakeholders to achieve balance between biodiversity conservation and economic development. Representatives from MoEF&CC solicited more participation from the industry to make the programme a success.
India is playing a lead role in development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which shall be finalized the 15th Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2022. Private sector participants were requested to provide their inputs on the same so that their concerns and requirements could be appropriately reflected in the final framework.
UNDP India along with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change and the National Biodiversity Authority will be organising a side-event at the forthcoming meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) where some of these corporates have agreed to showcase their commitment to biodiversity conservation.
The meeting ended with a consensus to organize more such sessions that bring all stakeholders together to brainstorm potential initiatives and activities make the private sector an active participant in biodiversity conservation.