Thirty JSE-listed companies, across various sectors, are being supported by a World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa (WWF-SA) Nedbank Green Trust project team to assess their current levels of biodiversity mainstreaming into their strategies and activities.
The assessments are supported by the project’s centerpiece – an online toolkit – which is aimed at valuing biodiversity by developing the capacity of South African businesses to cost-effectively mainstream biodiversity into their strategies and practices.
Biodiversity valuation is the process of estimating the importance, worth or usefulness of biodiversity components for a business, a statement issued by the WWF-SA on Monday explained.
WWF-SA finance sector specialist Wendy Engel, who is leading the project with the Endangered Wildlife Trust's (EWT) Dr Joël Houdet, said the toolkit “notably provides businesses with a standardised, cross-sector biological diversity protocol, which helps businesses to consolidate biodiversity impact data at corporate level for disclosure purposes”.
Houdet explained that deciding on the biodiversity policy of a business was about determining which biodiversity dependencies and impacts were material to the company’s operating environment and stakeholders.
A biodiversity dependency or impact is material if it is considered to have the potential to alter a business’ decision-making process, where material impacts and dependencies should be actively managed.
The thirty JSE-listed companies were selected as they currently report on environmental risks and practices in their annual integrated reports, Engel explained, noting that, at present, very few companies provide a detailed assessment of their biodiversity impacts and risks.
“The biological diversity protocol supports companies in measuring, monitoring and reporting on their biodiversity performance,” she pointed out.
Given the unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss worldwide, as detailed in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and SA SANBI Assessment, EWT industry partnership senior manager Constant Hoogstad said, there was, “more than ever”, a need for businesses to step up their biodiversity game.
Hoogstad said the team was confident “that this project will be catalytic for South African business and biodiversity”.
The online toolkit includes a free biodiversity performance self-assessment questionnaire, business case studies and biodiversity mainstreaming guidelines organised in nine steps.
These steps constitute all the key stepping stones for businesses on their biodiversity mainstreaming journey, including building the business case, identifying risks and opportunities, measuring and valuing impacts and dependencies, designing biodiversity policy, strategy and action plans, disclosing biodiversity-related performance and monitoring progress for continuous improvement.
All businesses have been invited to make use of it.
The final project report, slated for release in the second half of 2021, will supply evidence of fit-for-purpose and practical feasibility of the various guidance and tools developed and proposed to South African businesses, based on uptake by and results obtained from the participating companies.