Bantay Kalikasan

ASEAN business sector to discuss link with biodiversity

February 18, 2016

On February 16, business leaders and representatives of civil society, academia and governments from across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)and Asia will assemble in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss the significance of biodiversity and ecosystems to businesses, propose solutions to managing the growing business risk of biodiversity loss, and identify opportunities to engage the business sector in biodiversity conservation to ensure the sustainable supply of natural capital.The First Asian Forum on Business and Biodiversity is organized by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and Birdlife International.

The forum is part of the Second ASEAN Conference on Biodiversity to be held in Bangkok from February 15 to 18, organized by ACB and hosted by the Royal Thai Government.

Businesses rely on biodiversity and their ecosystems for raw materials. The ongoing degradation and loss of biodiversity and ecosystems pose a threat to business survival.

In the past, biodiversity and ecosystems were seen as something that should be “looked after”, but they are historically seen as lesser important than development, external to businesses and the economy, and therefore acceptable to trade biodiversity loss for economic development.

However, scientific evidences now make it clear that humans have misunderstood the fundamental relationship between the economy and the environment. For example, there was a 56 percent loss of wildlife in the tropics between 1979 and 2010. More than 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems are now so degraded that they can no longer provide the goods and services, such as food, fiber, fuel, clean water, climate and disease regulation, and nutrients cycling that humanity need. It has been calculated that this degradation is currently costing the world between 5 to 10 trillion US dollars per year, a clear impact of biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation to the economy.

Business people are used to managing assets to generate revenue stream. They normally manage assets to maximizesustainable returns. This is not being done with biodiversity and ecosystems – the main source of natural assets. Humans continue to rapidly erode the natural assets that can generate revenue – using at least 25 percent more than the planet can sustain.

Environmental and sustainability issues are more visible than ever before, but humans are also faced with an ongoing and difficult recovery from the financial crisis and consequent economic uncertainty. While environmental and economic concerns may appear to be very different issues and, in fact, at odds with each other, they are actually deeply intertwined. Taking care of biodiversity and ecosystems is an increasingly important piece of the risk management that businesses need to undertake if they wish to remain profitable and viable. Sustainability and the protection of biodiversity is also a huge business opportunity. Consumers are becoming more aware of environmental issues and are now looking for “green” products. Companies are increasingly being obliged to consider these issues in their business models, decisions, sourcing and production methods.

Plenary topics at the Business and Biodiversityinclude Biodiversity: What It Is, What’s Happening to It, and Why It Matters to Society; Why Biodiversity Matters to Business; The Changing Relationship between Business and Biodiversity in Southeast Asia; Environmental Policy in Southeast Asia, ASEAN Integration and Convergence of Policies and Regulations; Financing Biodiversity: Business Implications and Business Responses;The Relationship Between Climate Change, Biodiversity and Business; Implications of Climate Change on Agricultural Production and Climate Smart Agriculture; and Business in South East Asia in a Changing World.

There will be four thematic discussions: The Changing Face of Forest Commodities and Agriculture in ASEAN;Extractive Industries in ASEAN; Fisheries; and Beaches, Jungles, and Biodiversity – Sustainable Tourism in Southeast Asia.