The UN predicts one million of the eight million species on the planet will be extinct by 2039, while UK biodiversity is already at a 50 per cent loss.
It’s hard to overestimate how concerning this is or underestimate the importance of biodiversity to our lives. Building back biodiversity will be difficult but it’s the responsibility of all of us, including business, to tackle this.
As Jason Knights – Managing Director, Ground Control explains here protecting biodiversity doesn’t just mean protecting a nice looking species of flower or a sentimental hedgerow animal. Maintaining the delicate balance of extremely complex ecosystems is essential to deliver the things we need to survive from the food we eat, to the water we drink and the very air we breathe. Urgent action is needed from smallest business and bigger global organisations to reverse this trend and drive the planet to biodiversity net gain.
Life on earth is a multifaceted tapestry of microorganisms, flora and fauna that have formed delicate ecosystems over millions of years. The chalk your teacher used in primary school or the petrol in your parents’ car were all formed by biological activity. Biodiversity is also ingrained in the prevention of floods and erosion and regulating weather patterns. If an eighth of life on earth is taken away, the impact of this loss on the planet will be far reaching and difficult to measure.
In the UK, the situation is particularly stark. Nearly half of Britain’s biodiversity has disappeared since the advent of the industrial revolution and today Britain ranks in the bottom 10% of the world’s least biodiverse countries. This ‘green and pleasant land’ used to be a lot more green and pleasant, but the damage goes beyond appearances.
Monoculture in agriculture and the use of harmful chemicals have devastated valuable soil nutrition and polluted waterways. Without arresting this decline, many of the foods on which we rely on will be impossible to grow, while other countries that we currently import from face similar challenges.
Biodiversity is also difficult to get on the agenda of world leaders, who prioritise a wider commitment to sustainability over biodiversity. The UN itself seems to behave to support this view by delaying the crucial COP 15 biodiversity summit for a fourth time. However, climate change and the loss of biodiversity are closely related.
In the face of this challenge it can be easy to be fatalistic, but every part of society has a crucial role to play to protect biodiversity, including small and medium businesses. Nearly a fifth of the UK’s land is owned by private companies, of which 90% are SMEs.
Their efforts can go a long way to encouraging biodiversity-friendly environments where life thrives. This ranges through the direct action they can take themselves, the influence they can have on employees and the collective voice they can raise to create positive change.
This can start with something simple like planting more trees and plants but can also extend to sourcing office supplies from sustainable local businesses. Many smaller suppliers are environmentally conscious and more tuned into the ethical concerns of their customers rather than large corporations prioritising volume and margins. For example, SMEs can support British growers and food producers using sustainable methods without harmful chemicals. Every considered choice helps increase natural diversity, reduce the destruction of habitats and contribute to enriching health of the soil and water for life to thrive. This can also have an influence on employees beyond the office, informing how they purchase and consume at home and spreading the word to friends and family.
SMEs operating from shared sites should also put pressure on the owners of large, serviced buildings and grounds to create biodiverse initiatives. Leaving areas for rewilding rather than immaculately manicured lawns can encourage wildflowers and insect species to thrive. Installing “bee bricks” in walls and creating natural corridors for pollinators and small animals to other sites can also create bridges for biodiversity to develop and spread.
The challenge of increasing biodiversity is stark but also one that needs to be faced head on. SMEs are used to adapting to challenges and can help drive society toward biodiversity next gain if they take a positive approach to helping habitats. Through applying their tenacity, people and collective influence, SMEs can be a major force in reversing the loss of biodiversity.