Businesses globally have provided a voice in the negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity planned for later in 2021. Business coalitions are aiming to show that the protection of nature is an economic as well as a moral imperative, calling on governments to adopt an ambitious new deal for nature and people to protect and enhance the natural world. Initiated by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Dilmah Conservation and now boasting over 90 private sector members, Biodiversity Sri Lanka (BSL) is such a coalition, that is taking the lead in uniting business on biodiversity conservation actions in Sri Lanka.

Amidst the current Covid-19 pandemic and the lessons learnt in the context of this planetary crisis, the need to re-build momentum on nature and show how collective efforts are essential for greater resilience to inspire business action on nature is resounding. Building partnerships and collaboration – now becomes more and more relevant for BSL’s membership, heightened in terms of the 17th SDG – ‘Partnerships for the Goals’, considered the most effective strategy to combat the world’s most pressing human challenge – Climate Change. The ‘New Normal’ on the other hand, is the changed way of life that all of us have had to adopt, adapt to, and align with, to ensure basic safety and wellbeing – critical ingredients for optimal functioning as human beings, families, communities, businesses, countries, and the world as a whole. It is to be noted that there is now a greater and a more affirmative push towards establishing the ‘New Normal’ in the ‘green’ way, relooking at sustainable economic strategies, traditional ways of doing things, integrating new technologies for increased productivity and targets for self-reliance.

Chair of Biodiversity Sri Lanka, Dilmah CEO Dilhan C. Fernando commented “Beyond the pandemic, we all face a threat that could literally suffocate, starve and extinguish humanity. Methods for mitigating this crisis have been known for decades. With broader comprehension amongst businesses of the need for action, collaboration is key to delivering impact. The measures we must take now to assure our health, food security, and survival must be universal, science based, innovative and definite. Fortunately while stabilizing Earth’s life support systems, those measures will also strengthen our economies, livelihoods, and wellness.”

Although globally businesses have been playing an important role in developing the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), in Sri Lanka however, a more prominent role is vital, taking into consideration, the leadership role of business in biodiversity conservation. The sharing of good practices and partnerships being built across key stakeholders is essential. If Sri Lankan businesses are not included satisfactorily in setting the framework, there is less likelihood that they will be able to fully contribute towards achieving the framework’s goals. Most importantly, significant changes are required to the strategic climate in which the framework and targets sit, compared with the current Strategic Plans for Biodiversity, to ensure that it drives corporate action to the extent required. If transformational change is to be achieved, there is a need to build on current targets, be synergistic with other biodiversity related multi-lateral environmental agreements and be more ambitious. There is value in both government and business-led initiatives, to ensure participation in the shaping and uptake of future national biodiversity policies in reaching a more sustainable outcome. 

The main tool for implementing the obligations towards the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) within the country is the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan (NBSAP), the first of which was drafted in 1998 by the Ministry of Environment. The second version of this Action Plan was devised to hold legitimate from 2016 to 2022. While this NBSAP remains currently in force, it is imperative that it considers, the additions and revisions necessary taking into consideration the CBD’s Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, so that it continues to direct relevant stakeholders and plays a meaningful role in the years to come. As the custodian and focal point for the implementation of the NBSAP, the Ministry of Environment must continue to play an effective role in bringing all stakeholders including the non-government, private, academic sectors, and the civil society, which share an equal responsibility in effectively realizing the NBSAP targets in a timely manner.

Biodiversity Sri Lanka – the only private sector led network recognized by the Ministry of Environment as a national platform under the CBD, focuses on addressing biodiversity-related issues and challenges in the country. It continuously attempts to provide a platform for Sri Lanka’s private sector, to contribute towards the achievement of the NBSAP targets. Currently, the private sector plays a leading role in the integration of biodiversity assessments and risk management in business processes, greening of supply chains and portfolios across the board, making increased investments for biodiversity protection/sustainable use and voluntarily disclosing business impacts on biodiversity and measures taken to mitigate them.

To participate effectively, leading up to and after the CBD’s Conference of Parties (CoP) 15 scheduled for later this year in China, it is important to ensure the active involvement of the private sector, ensuring that the private sector is represented in defining and developing national targets or commitments in keeping with each of the Post-2020 GBF targets. The private sector could play a useful role in representing and redefining the targets contained in the current NBSAP in line with the Post-2020 GBF, supporting the adoption of relevant targets through sector-specific actions and responsibilities. The efforts of the private sector must be included and recognized in official national documentation to the CBD.

BSL is emphasizing the growing need for businesses to come together and strengthen the resilience of our systems and support collective action to accelerate progress towards a more sustainable future. Forward-thinking companies are already making commitments and taking action to reverse nature loss and the need to step up, scale up and speed up. Coalitions such as Biodiversity Sri Lanka can lead in scaling business actions to protect nature by, uniting, amplifying, and helping to up-scale existing business commitments, driving the global narrative around the economic importance of a thriving natural world; and showcasing business solutions that translate commitments into actions for meaningful impact.

BSL’s strategy has been designed under the broad theme – Partnering for ‘the Green Normal’ - and will aim to heighten working in partnership to align with the new way of life that would be determined by the requisite gradual transitioning of BSL’s membership as key contributors of the green economy.

BSL is bringing business leaders together to act and advocate for nature. Noting that our entire economy is a subsidiary of nature, the need for businesses to come together now, to ensure that we collectively protect that which makes our very existence possible, BSL creates an opportunity for businesses to work together to demonstrate how protecting nature is at the heart of building “truly sustainable economies and livelihoods.” We urge businesses to work through their own operations and value chains to identify, reduce, and avoid impacts, while also identifying dependencies, nature-based solutions, and other opportunities that create benefits for nature and people, lead landscape-level collaboration in landscapes, river basins and seascapes to ensure ecosystem conservation and restoration, and the supply of ecosystem services delivered by nature to society and the economy, Implement systemic change organizations and business models by identifying impacts and dependencies on natural capital and taking nature into account when making decisions, disclosing, and reporting; and recommend and promote policy changes to governments to establish the policy frameworks needed to drive economic changes.

This article was taken from Times Online

This article was also published in the Daily FT

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