What is the Business & Biodiversity Platform?
It is a one stop shop where the private sector can access information and know how on biodiversity and other conservation issues both as a part of their core business and also as a part of their ongoing sustainability/CSR activities. This platform was created conforming to a decision made at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties (COP) 10 held in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010 to further integrate the business sector in biodiversity conservation. The Platform is supported by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, IUCN and Dilmah Conservation at its initial stages.
Shiranee Yasaratne, Consultant to IUCN mentioned that “The overall mandate of this national initiative is to encourage dialogue amongst stakeholders and to help raise awareness of biodiversity and sustainability issues amongst the business community. By assisting businesses to in-build environmental sustainability into their core work programmes, not only will we be guiding them towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals but also ensuring that these all important issues are addressed systematically and scientifically whilst keeping to national priorities and proven scientific methodologies”.
Ecosystems are the basis for all life and yet biological diversity is disappearing at an alarmingly rapid pace. The gradual destruction of our environment and the ecosystems which operate within them will not only eliminate the basis of our future existence but also the future economy. Urgent attention to this cause inspired the setting up of this platform where international and national cooperation between policy-makers, science, the public and especially the business sector will be encouraged and facilitated. The stakeholders that will participate in this initiative are already pioneers in this field having already actively incorporated biological diversity into their business model.
Functions of the Business and Biodiversity Platform
Knowledge Hub: The platform will facilitate the sharing of knowledge on biodiversity issues by instilling leadership within the private sector to own this issue and to take it forward. Through this process, stakeholders will promote best practices and dialogue with state and civil society partners on biodiversity conservation issues, thus bringing together policy makers, researchers, practitioners and business leaders to work through a range of activities and share ideas to promote dialogue and improve the exchange of knowledge, information and methods on biodiversity conservation.
Network, Network, Network: By establishing vital links between the private sector and existing and emerging networks and initiatives both locally and internationally, Sri Lankan businesses will gain from being able to easily find solutions that will assist them in adjusting their activities to ensure fair income and sustainable growth, whilst providing benefits for biodiversity and ecosystems.
Policy development & enhancement: Given that the platform is membership driven, members will be constantly engaged in roundtable discussions on issues of interest, workshops on best practices and lessons learnt etc. They will also be privy to case studies of successful biodiversity conservation initiatives which will inspire them to nominate and upscale their own campaigns for awards schemes, bench marking and certification. These accreditations will serve to steer biodiversity and conservation issues to the forefront of public policy development in Sri Lanka. Members will also have access to a project bank consisting of current and future projects involving biodiversity solutions for business.
Economical implications for Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, as in the Asia Pacific region, the private sector is the engine of growth. The apparel industry is entirely private sector dominated, as are agricultural exports. The manufacturing industry is largely private sector owned and despite three decades of conflict and inflation, the engine continued to propel the country forward, enjoying a 6 – 7% growth rate. Since the end of the conflict in 2009, Sri Lanka has shown a stronger growth rate of over 8% in both 2010 and 2011, owing largely to private-sector demand. The growth rate in 2011 was the fastest of all the South Asian countries and is expected to continue in this vein beyond 2013. The combination of sustaining high economic growth rates and improving the lives of the poor or marginalized communities whilst not compromising on environmental conservation and restoration is one of the biggest challenges facing the country. One response to this issue has been to set up the Business & Biodiversity Platform at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Sri Lanka, as an island nation, has a unique set of circumstances when it comes to biodiversity. Areas that have remained relatively untouched and allowed to thrive during the years of conflict have now become prime targets for rapid development. This has the potential to disturb the finely balanced ecosystems leading to irreversible damage. Additionally, with Sri Lanka on the verge of a tourism boom there has been a parallel growth trajectory in ecological parks and sites thus presenting conservationists and the hospitality industry with a fine tightrope to tread between exploitation and conservation.
Whilst some of the larger multinational and national companies operating in the country have included environmental agendas into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reach, a large segment of companies carry out initiatives in order to comply with government rules and regulations. This is far from the ideal situation and will only be rectified when market forces make CSR or CESR a vital component of shareholder value. It is then that new competitive forces will emerge in favour of responsible corporate action thus giving CSR a new dimension – one that is determined by market forces, and not inspired by corporate consciousness alone