The private sector can play a central role in halting biodiversity loss and financing biodiversity conservation only if one understands the impact and vulnerabilities of private businesses to biodiversity. We can preserve and sustainably use the Earth’s species and ecosystems only by expanding and financing sustainable businesses. Only 14.5 percent of the world’s land and 7.44 percent of the world’s oceans is under protection and mostly under public domains. These protected areas do not cover all areas important for biodiversity. In most countries, private individuals or companies own, lease or occupy most of the land, making their engagement essential for proper biodiversity management. Unfortunately, prevalent business and accounting practices tend to not adequately count and take into consideration biodiversity and natural capital monetary values. They also ignore production- related aspects, and underestimate reputation consequences and supply chain risks related to these traditional practices.
Corporations increasingly provide financial resources through grants and donations. Although altruism and charitable giving are critical, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to impacting nature. This means going far beyond philanthropy and voluntary corporate social responsibility, integrating biodiversity and ecosystems into sustainable business models.
Investment in conservation is growing, even if starting from low figures: Total committed private capital climbed 62 percent in just two years from US$ 5.1 billion to US$8.2 billion. Investors committed an additional US$ 1.6 billion a year in 2014 and 2015. Businesses are beginning to appreciate their dependence and impacts on nature, and leading companies realize the risks and opportunities associated with a better incorporation of nature into business models and operations. The Natural Capital Coalition (a group that evolved from TEEB for Business), the Natural Capital Initiative, and other groups and companies have developed a range of tools and protocols that assist business managers and leaders to understand options and risks associated with their interaction with nature and nature’s services.
Box 1.4: Investing in Green Infrastructure is Cost-Effective
New York City evaluated two schemes to manage its storm water flows. One was a green infrastructure plan that emphasized stream buffer restoration, green roofs, and bio-swales–landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The other was a grey infrastructure plan involving tunnels and storm drains. The green infrastructure option presented relative cost savings of more than US$1.5 billion.44
A study by WWF-Guianas looked at potential investments in coastal defences for Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname.45 For much of the coastline examined, mangrove regeneration appears to be the more cost-effective solution, with investments having a net present value at least double that estimated for dyke construction. These results are dependent on assumptions, but they are robust under different discount rates, and arise despite additional benefits of mangroves (e.g. carbon storage, fisheries life cycle habitat) not being valued. Where coastal developments preclude space being available for mangrove regeneration, investments in dykes are the only feasible protection option.