There is little point in talking about sustainability if we are not talking about life on Earth. We call all living things like plants, animals, fungi and bacteria “biodiversity” – or, the different types of life (species) you’ll find in a given area. All these species work together to maintain their ecosystems and survive within them. They create the delicate balance necessary for life to flourish. If this balance is not maintained, the entire ecosystem can collapse.
However, as humans consume more resources, we risk upsetting that delicate balance. Be it pollution, climate change or population growth, human activities undoubtedly have adverse effects on biodiversity. That’s why we both have a responsibility as individuals and as businesses to look at our actions and find ways to minimize the negative impact we have.
A refresher course on biodiversity
Reminder of Key Terms:
Biome: Vast areas characterized by their vegetation, soil, wildlife and climate. The 5 main types of biomes include forest, tundra, desert, wetland, and grassland.
Biosphere: All parts of Earth where life exists. These range from the deepest trenches in the ocean to the highest mountain peaks.
Ecosystem: A geographic area where plants, animals, other organisms, weather, and even the landscape work together to form a “bubble of life.”
Here’s a short refresher on biodiversity for those who don’t remember much from their biology class in school.
- Biodiversity is a surprisingly broad concept, which is literally covered All life on earth
- It is the most complex and important feature of our planet, because it is this countless Relationships between organisms that make life possible
- There are different levels of biodiversity, including:
- distinct species
- Community of living things
- The entire ecosystem
- Healthy ecosystems are formed in this range Animals, Plants, Microorganisms, and more. These ecosystems provide the things we breathe, the food we eat, and the medicines we rely on. For example, without plants, we would have no oxygen to breathe. If bees didn’t pollinate flowers, we wouldn’t have any fruit.
The most diverse ecosystem
When looking at biomes and ecosystems, it’s important to remember that not all are created equal. The diversity of organisms living within these biomes is not the same – some play host to countless different species, while others have the conditions for life necessary for very specific species. Many living things are hyper-specialized to live in very specific environments and will not be able to adapt to life in different biomes. For example, aquatic species would simply be unable to survive in a desert biome, while an animal like the apple snail could adapt to life in a swamp, lake, river, or even a ditch.
Tropical rainforests and coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Coral reefs are home to more than 1 million species of animals, as well as 4000 species of reef fish and 800 species of coral. And they only cover 0.1% of the Earth’s surface (Coral Reef Alliance)! Rain forests, on the other hand, are so diverse that we don’t know exactly how many species currently live in them. Estimates currently sit anywhere between 3 and 50 million species.
But both these habitats are now more at risk than ever due to human activities. Deforestation and forest change due to logging, hunting, agricultural expansion and human settlement are greatly affecting tropical rainforests, with more than 1 million species currently facing extinction. What’s more, studies have shown that coral reef-associated biodiversity has declined by 63% since the 1950s due to water temperatures, pollution, climate change, overfishing and coastal development.
Why Biodiversity Should Matter to Companies
Sometimes, it may seem that biodiversity and business are completely separate. The image of a skyscraper with businessmen in suits can feel at odds with a David Attenborough-esque documentary shot of humpback whales. But this is a misconception because the bottom line is that biodiversity is intrinsically linked to economic value across a range of businesses.
Food supply, carbon storage, and water and air filtration, to name a few, provide economic value in the form of ecosystem services. These industries alone are worth $150 trillion annually – twice the world’s GDP! What’s more, there are 5 primary pressures that are causing steep biodiversity loss – land and sea use, direct overexploitation of natural resources, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species.
The resulting loss of ecosystem function costs more than $5 trillion a year in lost natural services. It is clear that many commercial activities (especially related to resource extraction and farming) contribute greatly to the causes of biodiversity loss. In fact, the food, energy, infrastructure, and fashion industries are responsible for over 90% of human-induced pressure on biodiversity!
And it’s something that workplace cultures around the world are becoming more aware of. According to recent research, more than 70% of employees are concerned about environmental ethics, and 65% claim they are more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies (Reuters).
What can companies do to help biodiversity?
As many companies begin to set sustainability as a key priority, protecting biodiversity should be an integral part of these practices and policies. Below are some easy ways to get started:
Introducing a new sustainable policy
A sustainability policy will show your company’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment and future generations. Introducing such a policy, along with a part of how your industry and business affects biodiversity, will give you the opportunity to identify key issues and tackle them head on. Read more about writing an environmental policy here.
Start setting goals and creating accountability
Find ways to map biodiversity across your value chain to identify exactly where and how you can reduce your impact. Aligning with science-based target networks or nature-related financial disclosure task forces is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Speak to your C-suite
Once you’ve prepared your sustainability policy, have your board of directors or C-level leaders sign off on it. This seemingly small gesture is critical in showing internal and external stakeholders that you are serious about creating a sustainable future for your business.
Whether it’s through an incentive-based gamification system or community-led initiatives, engaging employees on these key issues is critical. Not only will their commitment help you achieve your goals, but you’ll also see a wave of positive sentiment across the company as employees increasingly value working for a company with strong environmental goals.
What we’re doing at TravelPerk to protect biodiversity
At TravelPerk, we work closely with two major biodiversity conservation organizations helping to fund their key projects and initiatives. Through GreenPerk and the GreenPerk API, TravelPerk customers are able to offset their business travel-related carbon footprint by investing ~0.9% of their total travel spend in a pool that supports these projects. These projects, in turn, are dedicated to conserving biodiversity and protecting wildlife sanctuaries.
Spotlight: Rimba Roy Biodiversity Project
One of the primary projects we work with is the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve Initiative – a profitable forest carbon initiative in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. A fundamental objective of this project is to protect an entire peat dome from the planned conversion to an oil palm plantation.
Rimba Raya is located in the Seruan district of Indonesia, a region that covers about 16.5 million hectares of land – about 10% of which is peatland. Such physical geography is often exploited for oil palm and rubber production, which the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Project is combating.
Oil palm plantations have been expanding rapidly in the district since 2000, with the district government issuing 598,815 hectares of land for this purpose from 2008 to 2014 alone. Deforestation and plans to convert peatlands into oil palm plantations have represented the biggest threats to these forests over the past two decades.
The Rimba Roya Biodiversity Reserve Initiative works specifically with businesses and government agencies to address this issue. Many positive initiatives resulting from such partnerships include using forests to remove illegal timber, banning fishing using sustainable practices and preventing land-use change among other things.
The organization is committed to implementing social programs to improve general income and well-being. These include developing agroforestry systems, introducing clean water programs and improving child education to name a few.
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area covering over 300,000 hectares in eastern Cambodia. It is home to more than 100 species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), 75 endangered species and 46 listed as endangered or rare under Cambodian law. The region is also the ancestral home of the Bunong ethnic group whose culture, community and identity are rooted in these forests. This is a project that we, at TravelPerk, are proud to support
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, which is one of the main causes of carbon dioxide emissions. Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary contains more than 75 million tons of CO2e in the fight against carbon emissions and global warming. Some of the major challenges facing this sanctuary are large-scale deforestation, increasing demand for agricultural land (representing 30% of employment in the region), illegal logging and poaching.
The team behind Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is employing a number of incredible initiatives to address these challenges. From directly involving local communities to working with law enforcement agencies to protect land, both top-down and bottom-up approaches are being applied to address these issues.
Direct wildlife protection is another important area of focus for the team, who have helped community members install predator-exclusion devices and protect Cambodia’s endangered national bird, the giant ibis. Through regular monitoring and evaluation, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is able to track the success of these interventions and ensure the positive impact of their actions and those of their investors and donors.
Getting involved through TravelPerk
Any TravelPerk user is able to contribute to these incredible projects by signing up for our GreenPerk service. Any time you book a trip through TravelPerk, our expert team calculates your carbon footprint and collects the corresponding funds to offset 100% of your carbon footprint on this trip. All funds are then pooled into a pool, which is then invested in VERRA-certified projects, such as the ones above. All users receive transparent reports on the positive impact of their investments in these projects.
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