It’s International Biodiversity Day today and it might seem like yet another symbolic initiative where you can show pictures of bees in your feed and appear to do good. But Biodiversity deserves better. Most of us tend to forget that on a global scale, at least according to the planetary boundaries and other researchers, biodiversity is a more acute issue than climate change.
On a corporate level, biodiversity is still an underdeveloped area of sustainability. Sectors with a direct and large impact on biodiversity (such as forestry and agriculture) are more advanced in the area than companies with an indirect impact, according to a recent report by IVL on behalf of the Swedish EPA. One of the reasons biodiversity work is underdeveloped is because there is no established standard for calculating impact and setting quantitative goals for biodiversity. On the climate side, Greenhouse Gas Protocol may be imperfect but it has leveled the playing field among companies and makes sure that climate impact is calculated in a standardized fashion.
As the authors of the report note, biodiversity is often governed using certifications. I would say that organic certification is the most common way companies govern biodiversity. I’m currently researching grocery and food companies and in this sector there are often targets for share of organic produce, for example that 10% of sales should be organic. As we know, organic certifications benefit biodiversity since pesticides is a threat to biodiversity. Sadly, the share of organic food sold in Sweden is currently declining.
However, biodiversity is much more than pesticides. It is of course also related to pollution more generally, such as water pollution. Perhaps less well known, and as The UN emphasizes, it is also about genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is one key measure used by the planetary boundaries framework. It means that monocultures and using only certain breeds on a large scale is not very beneficial for biodiversity. It also makes systems less resilient because if one pest that likes this particular species finds it, it can threaten the whole harvest. I have rarely seen this discussed in corporate sustainability reports. And as customers we rarely get information of the kind of breed we consume (probably Ross or Cobb in terms of chicken) so we may not be aware of the very limited biodiversity in what we consume.
To end, I want to highlight some positive examples I have come across. Plockhugget is a Swedish company that promotes more biodiverse forests through its business. If you buy a phone case from Swedish startup Bark, you may get wood from Plockhugget and you also get information on the specific type of wood used for your case and where it grew etc. I just bought a phone case made from wood that grew on Kungliga Djurgården, a large park close to were I live in Stockholm. It doesn’t get more local than that and no monocultures were involved. The tree no doubt had a good life too.
Buying food at the farmers market is another way to support biodiversity. Small scale farming has, according to a recent study by researchers at SLU, better biodiversity effects than large scale farming. If you don’t have time to visit the farmers market, Gröna gårdar sells only grass fed beef (grazing is really good for biodiversity) from small to medium size farms via the internet. There may also be farms that do direct sales to customers in the city, I only yesterday bought eggs from Pekin Bantam hens via Franzéns Charkuterier (on the picture) for example. Franzéns also have Linderöd pigs, another old breed you won’t find in conventional food chains. Supporting such small businesses, who don’t work with the mainstream breeds optimized for large scale production, supports genetic variety.
Another promising initiative is Crowdfarming. They support direct sales between farmers and customers within Europe. When you buy food via Crowdfarming you can see what variety you buy (the common Hass avocado or the less common Reed variety for example) and whether the farm that cultivated it is small, medium or large and other sustainability initiatives at this farm. Crowdfarming also educates its customers on the types of varieties that exist and when their proper season starts etc.
Obviously, biodiversity is not only an issue for forestry or agriculture. However, I have come across fewer good examples from other industries. If you know of other good examples, please let me know in the comments. I still have much to learn in regards to biodiversity. There is still limited research within business studies on this issue too.
Wish you all a good International Biodiversity Day