Biodiversity is one of the nine critical planetary boundaries that keeps the Earth’s environment stable and energised enough to support life. Currently, we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction (the last one having marked the end of dinosaurs) and about to breach this planet’s boundary, with hundreds of thousands of species at the risk of complete elimination. Five primary pressures including changes in use of the land and sea, direct overexploitation of natural resources, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species are causing a steep decline in biodiversity.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that the world is losing 10 million hectares of forest every year, leaving the world’s remaining forests in a struggle to sustain their primary function. Not only are they home to numerous species, but they also play a crucial role in providing fresh water, clean air, mitigating climate change and supporting livelihood.
One of the International Resource Panel (IRP) insights on COP26 mentions that 1 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction – many within the next few decades and that the per capita value of world’s natural capital stocks has declined by 40% since 1992. The decline in ecosystem functionality costs the global economy more than $5 trillion a year in the form of lost natural services.
The BCG analysis and academic researches show that biodiversity creates significant economic value in the form of ecosystem services, including regulating cultural, habitat and provisioning services which are worth more than $150 trillion annually, i.e. twice the world’s GDP. The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) study 2010 estimated that ecosystem services of about 1.5 to 3.8 trillion USD per year is lost. The break-up of the contribution of respective ecosystem services to the annual value is given as follows: –
As ecosystems decline, businesses face significant risks, including higher raw material costs and a backlash from consumers and investors. Given that more than half of the world’s GDP depends heavily on functioning natural ecosystems, their decline threatens to disrupt many important supply chains. Pressure of government regulations related to biodiversity on businesses is increasing and may have imposed significant additional costs in future. In this context, companies that fail to address negative impacts of their operations, put themselves at the inevitable risk of eroding the invaluable goodwill of their customers and stakeholders.
Technological advances in biodiversity conservation
Scientists are collaborating to support biodiversity on a global scale by developing autonomous devices to catalogue and publicise the irreplaceable value of ecosystems before they disappear completely from the face of the earth. Technology can also be used to accelerate the ecological restoration, provide more data, faster processing, better information access and connectivity, new communication routes, exciting visual representations and empowered decision-making support systems. This interface between digital technologies and nature conservation is getting termed as digital conservation- the major elements of which are:
Tata Steel Story
Tata Steel looks at biodiversity conservation from a holistic perspective, striving to take serious constructive measures, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to appropriate initiatives in the context of conservation of biodiversity. We are continually engaged in designing progressive methodologies. It is embedded in the DNA of the organisation and is driven by the Company’s leadership, with an organisation-wide governance structure.
The Company has identified 20 important sustainability issues through materiality exercise. Out of the twenty material issues, biodiversity is one of the topics included for targeted action, as mining is one of the major causes of habitat loss and species extinction. The initiatives undertaken to address the biodiversity issue contribute to meet the SDG 15 Life on Land Goal as well as SDG 13 Climate Action Goal.
In implementation of these initiatives, the organisation had initially developed competencies through collaborations with expert organisations such as IUCN and at an advanced stage, created its own expertise through the Centre of Excellence. A synergistic model for biodiversity restoration projects such as CRM Bara and Jugsalai Muck Dump was created, where it also addresses the climate change mitigation requirements by limiting the air and water pollution. Also, a centralised knowledge hub of biodiversity, to encourage knowledge transfer of locational success to the other sites within the ambit of organisation was developed. Stakeholder consultation and local community involvement through awareness sessions as well as active participation have proven to be effective tools in the biodiversity conservation initiatives adopted by the organisation.
The initiatives are designed and implemented to have positive environmental implications as well as socio-economic value. A case in point being the Dalma Viewpoint, that provides a good picnic spot for the local community. The Noamundi mine restoration has provided livelihood options for the communities dependent on the forest produce, Tata Zoo generating revenue through entry tickets are some more such examples. The employees are actively involved through nature clubs, sustainability champion initiatives and other regular engagement activities to develop sensitivities and encourage integration of ecological and climate risk in the strategic decision-making for core business processes.
In Tata Steel, the sustainability initiatives are top driven, with stakeholder consultation at every level. The governance structure is well established from policy to employee engagement, playing a significant role in building a shared future.