A new study carried out by the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER), reveals that businesses that support biodiversity can reap the benefits.

Biodiversity – the richness of wildlife and habitats around us – has traditionally been the concern of only a few organisations in areas such as agriculture, forestry and estate management. However, there is an increasing awareness among business from all sectors, including manufacturing, of the importance of biodiversity including the benefits which can be achieved from supporting it in business operations.

Legislation such as the Liability Directive is focussing greater attention on environmental issues and placing increased responsibility on businesses to prevent harm. This requires a better understanding of the potential impact of business activities and associated business risks, including biodiversity.

The drivers for supporting the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity are not just legislative. Taking positive action can result in both environmental and business benefits. These include: safeguarding raw materials and resources used in manufacturing; improving management of sites, materials, products or waste; and providing new market opportunities.

One of the main advantages of supporting biodiversity identified by business is improved reputation. For example, B&Q adopts an overall approach to social responsibility, which includes policies for sustainable sourcing of timber and peat. The firm has also established a pioneering commitment to supporting the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) certification system, which promotes a system of responsible forest management, supply chain auditing and product labelling.

Another major user of FSC-certified timber is Network Rail, which has found that converting to FSC timber sleepers has helped to address the concerns of NGOs and enhanced its reputation as an environmentally responsible company.

Reputational benefits

Many companies also feel that biodiversity initiatives improve their reputation with employees, helping their staff feel good about the place they work, with potential benefits to staff retention and productivity. Reducing staff turnover can have direct financial benefits, such as reducing costs associated with training replacement staff. The average direct cost of recruitment is typically £2,500, with indirect costs nearly doubling this figure.

Another key benefit identified by organisations supporting conservation of biodiversity is through its contribution to maintaining environmental certifications, particularly ISO14001. Environmental certification is a key component in accessing market opportunities, both to meet client requirements and to create advantage over competitors.

Lagan, a group based in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which undertakes construction, civil engineering and quarrying, estimates that at least 90% of tenders for new contracts include questions regarding ISO14001, with an increasing number of contracts weighting environmental criteria between 25% and 40%. While biodiversity is only one element of certification, for a business with a turnover of £250M, the contribution of ISO14001 is significant. The groups’ involvement in biodiversity projects has contributed to the protection and conservation of birds such as peregrine falcons and sand martins that frequent quarries owned and operated by the group.

Meanwhile, Emtelle, a manufacturer of plastic utility pipes, has invested in a reed-bed system to treat waste water from its site in Hawick, Scotland. The reed-bed system helps to reduce the risk of polluting an adjacent river, as well as providing a new wildlife habitat and reducing the site’s water and wastewater bills.

By managing their impacts on biodiversity, businesses can benefit, while helping to secure a healthy and sustainable natural environment.

For information on the research carried out by SNIFFER visit www.sniffer.org.uk

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie