Mainstreaming biodiversity within the business sector

mainstreaming biodiversity in business

The need for mainstreaming biodiversity into economic development and growth, a key component of any comprehensive sustainability strategy, is becoming increasingly recognised. So much so that it is now also strongly embedded in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Biodiversity is being mainstreamed currently in several key areas. 

For instance, at a national level, consisting of national development strategies and plans, national budgets, and institutional coordination. Other key areas include in development cooperation, the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors, and the evaluation and monitoring of biodiversity mainstreaming. 

What it all comes down to is biodiversity underpins all life on Earth. It offers essential benefits to our economies and societies. However, major pressures from land use change, pollution and climate change, and over-exploitation of natural resources means we are contributing to an alarming loss of biodiversity. 

Mainstreaming biodiversity could be the answer to ensuring living diversity and supporting our lives on Earth. Below we will discuss this topic further and how we can drive corporate biodiversity management.

What is biodiversity mainstreaming?

Biodiversity mainstreaming is typically understood as making sure that biodiversity, and the services it offers, are factored into practices and policies that depend on and have an effect on it. This practice addresses the gap in worldwide conservation practice by integrating biodiversity considerations into practices, policies, and strategies of both crucial private and public actors that rely on ecosystem services.

This is so that biodiversity is sustainably used, and conserved, both at a global and local level. The aim behind biodiversity mainstreaming is to alter those practices and policies that influence land uses beyond protected areas as well as to change development and economic decision-making by showcasing why we need to conserve biodiversity and how this will allow us to achieve development outcomes. This practice is greatly tied to the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

It is practised with large investments by national government agencies, development agencies, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). In addition, implementing organisations and donors. Mainstreaming biodiversity is vital for the long-term survival of biodiversity beyond and within protected areas. Preserving biodiversity helps us to ensure the long-term stability of ecosystems. It also allows for the sustainable preservation of natural resources to support future generations and their lives on this planet. Restoring ecosystems and tackling biodiversity loss is a major challenge that requires significant action and investments. 

Ensuring we have diverse life occupying the planet is a worldwide issue. Biodiversity is suffering major declines across the world, threatening the ability of ecosystems to offer the services we depend on. Mainstreaming biodiversity into strategies, policies, and plans of different economic sectors is vital to reversing the damage already caused. While mainstreaming biodiversity remains a significant challenge around the world, progress in some areas can offer us some direction for the future. 

Mainstreaming biodiversity was created to address the fact that biodiversity conservation goals are frequently viewed as distinct from or in opposition to the goals of economic and development growth. More priority is placed on economic prosperity and development which means investments in biodiversity conservation are far below what they should be. The truth is biodiversity conservation is not receiving the social, political, and financial backing it needs to succeed and have a real impact. 

Why is mainstreaming biodiversity vital for sustainable development?

Managing and establishing protected areas has forever been a cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. It remains a well-known and widely deployed strategy. This approach has been well studied from a range of environmental, social, and economic viewpoints. As a result, mainstreaming biodiversity has proven to be an effective approach in helping us achieve worldwide biodiversity conservation goals. 

However, these assessments have found that the current network of protected areas is not enough to halt biodiversity loss worldwide. Therefore, support is needed for both creating additional protected areas and increasing the effectiveness of current protected areas. In saying that, to achieve this, we need more backing from society, in particular, backing that will most likely only occur from showing solid connections between human well-being and biodiversity conservation

Moreover, even if we manage to identify new protected areas and increase the effectiveness of current ones, we still must work beyond the boundaries of these areas because much of the Earth’s biodiversity is found in these settings. Ultimately, mainstreaming is a vital body of practice for conservation but requires much policy and funding support. The role it plays will help us learn and assist in monitoring and enhancing existing practices to curb biodiversity loss and improve conservation efforts. One great example of mainstreaming biodiversity in action is South Africa’s Working for Water Programme (WfW)

As one of the best-documented case studies of biodiversity mainstreaming, the stimulus for launching this initiative arose from the convergence of four phenomena in the Cape region in the early 1990s. These included heightened awareness of the adverse effects of alien plants on water security and fire risk. In addition, declining capacity and budgets to manage these invasive plants and the change in government structures associated with the move to full democracy. There was also increased unemployment which contributed to over a decade of stagnant economic growth. 

The programme focused on mainstreaming national policies, legislation, and strategies. In particular, looking at controlling and removing these plants from sensitive catchments to enhance water yield and restore the biodiversity of grassland, wetland, riverine, and forest ecosystems. This project completely transformed practices and policies within the legislative executive and private sectors. The results to date include one million ha of invasive plants being cleared and around 20,000 jobs and training opportunities per year being created for the country’s population. 

How can we mainstream biodiversity within the business sector?

Now that you have a greater understanding of the concept of mainstreaming biodiversity and why it is important, let’s look at how to drive biodiversity in business decisions. The truth is, the vast majority of businesses depend on biodiversity. Whether you recognise this or not, you either indirectly or directly benefit from ecosystem services. 

If your business is harming biodiversity, you risk losing vital services and resources. Due to this, it is vital that the private sector demonstrates a strong and improved performance concerning biodiversity. Luckily, there are several different approaches and biodiversity tools that can help businesses better measure their performance on biodiversity-related issues.

These tools are becoming increasingly adopted in a range of sectors as a means to promote sustainable business. They aim to promote business decision-making and actions that minimise adverse impacts on biodiversity. Some of these tools include Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN), the Rainforest Alliance Certification, Biodiversity Impact Metric (BIM), the Lasting Initiative for Earth (LIFE) Key, and Exploring Natural Capital Opportunities, Risk, and Exposure (ENCORE), among others.

What it comes down to is that business activity can either be an impact driver or a biodiversity pressure for instance, through the materials used to create your products. These business activities generate changes in the state of biodiversity. They, in turn, affect our society or the business itself. The above tools and approaches help with the process of assessing the biodiversity-related dependencies and effects of business activity by providing biodiversity metrics. 

They all allow businesses to assess both directly and indirectly at least one driver of biodiversity loss. A number of these tools are also guided by the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework. This framework aims to capture, whether fully or partially, the connections between biodiversity effects, business activity, and impacts on business. For example, a tool like the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) or the Biodiversity Impact Metric (BIM) identifies the biodiversity status in a certain geographic location.

Certain tools also assess the presence of actions taken in relation to managing biodiversity impacts based on mitigation hierarchy. For example, the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Benchmark, and the Science Based Targets for Nature. They consist of four main stages including avoiding negative effects on biodiversity, minimising impacts, restoring impacts that are reversible, and offsetting residual impacts. Other tools like the LIFE Key recognise options to manage negative effects and assess the potential impacts.

The STAR tool for example offers geospatial estimates of the potential to minimise threats to endangered species and carry out habitat restoration. This can be used in an applied or default mode to local data on certain threatened species to determine the effects of conservation actions on these populations. Therefore, it could be utilised to select places to invest in enhancing biodiversity. In addition, it can also be used to monitor the genuine effects of current actions. 


The main goal behind mainstreaming biodiversity is to improve corporate environmental management. In particular, efforts to minimise the adverse effects that development investments, productive sectors, and human activities have on biodiversity. This practice accomplishes this by highlighting how biodiversity contributes to human well-being and socioeconomic development. 

If we do not have diverse species living on this planet, our entire support system for both human and animal life will collapse. Businesses rely on biodiversity and ecosystem services more than they might realise, and not taking action is sure to present a significant risk.

Share via:

Latest Insights

Business spotlight - Cpl

Business Spotlights: Cpl

Explore how Cpl is advancing its sustainability journey, focusing on Scope 3 emissions and impactful strategies to foster a greener future.

Diploma in Business Sustainability

Want to gain a comprehensive understanding of sustainability best practices and get equipped with the practical knowledge needed to lead sustainability initiatives at your organisation?

My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.