Biodiversity means the variety of living things in a given area. In 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, a global agreement was made to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity. This agreement recognized just how important our wildlife is for sustaining a healthy planet and for delivering essential benefits for people. The current UK objective for 2020 is to halt overall biodiversity loss, support healthy well-functioning ecosystems and establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people.
Biodiversity standards can help achieve these goals by helping organizations to understand their impact on complex ecosystems and manage that impact in order to preserve or enhance biodiversity. Greater biodiversity provides improved resilience to the natural environment and as a result, reduces the risk to the supply of renewable resources. Biodiversity is also a salient aspect of an organization’s environmental impact management programmes. Biodiversity standards can therefore help detail and implement an organization’s environmental management system or wider sustainability strategy, while ensuring the organization meets relevant policy and regulatory requirements. For example, biodiversity management in development is subject to planning legislation and local biodiversity action plans.
Trends and future work in Biodiversity
Certain species (e.g. bats, badgers, great crested newts) are protected under UK legislation. Standards can help clarify the processes of surveying and habitat management that are appropriate to a land owner or land manager’s particular circumstances. Work is already under way on a standard in this area, on bat surveys in woodlands, to help decide when a survey might be needed, and what such a survey should entail.
Natural capital is broadly described as the limited stock of natural assets (air, water, land, habitats), made up of eco-systems (providing renewable resources and services), and non-renewable deposits of fossil fuels and minerals. Goods and services are derived from these assets to benefit society and the economy. The long-term viability of business and society depends on the preservation of ecosystems and resources and yet, this ‘natural capital’ is rapidly depleting. Current business models and systems of profit-and-loss analysis do not account for significant environmental externalities, such as damage from climate change, pollution, land conversion and depletion of natural resources. However, there is a growing realization of the need for business to truly understand its dependency and impact on natural capital, and the real value of natural assets. The debate around Natural Capital Valuation (how to price/value natural capital and apply it in business decision-making) is gaining momentum and interest from within the global business community. Harmonized, standards-based approaches to defining and accounting for natural capital will in the future enhance and promote the existing effort, and make the consideration of natural capital an integral part of everyday business decision-making.
Where the development of a site containing valuable biodiversity cannot be ignored and every opportunity for biodiversity impact mitigation and enhancement has been identified, it is possible to fund the enhancement of biodiversity on another site, with guarantees that the second site will be maintained and protected for a significant period of time (typically 50 to 100 years). This is termed biodiversity offsetting. Standards could provide a method for calculating biodiversity value before and after development, and guidance for those implementing the offsetting process.
Links to standards related to Biodiversity
Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development.
Biodiversity. Guidance for businesses on managing the risks and opportunities.
Surveying for bats in trees and woodland – Guide.
Managing sustainable development of organizations. Framework for assessment against BS 8900-1. Specification.
BS EN ISO 14001
Environmental management systems. Requirements with guidance for use.
BS ISO 26000
Guidance on social responsibility.
Understanding ISO 26000. Practical approach to social responsibility.
BS ISO 31000
Risk management. Principles and guidelines.
Links to other related support materials and standards in development
European Commission's Product Environmental Footprinting.
European Commission's Organisational Environmental Footprinting.
View the sustainability themes map