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Save Biodiversity 03/07 - Update from Countdown 2010

In this Issue

^Dear Countdown 2010 Partners, dear Readers,

What are your plans for biodiversity day? On May 22, hundreds of organisations worldwide will celebrate the variety of life on earth. On this day, we will also celebrate the variety of activities to save biodiversity by 2010 within the Countdown 2010 network. Please join us, and take action on biodiversity day!

Climate change is this year’s topic, and so it is more than timely that the International Panel on Climate Change published its latest report on the impacts of climate change: Their verdict for both humans and ecosystems is bleak. A new international framework on climate change is thus one of the five priority actions towards 2010 proposed by Jeffrey Sachs.

Does the private sector have any business saving biodiversity? If we see biodiversity as the foundation of economic activity, how can we make sure that this natural capital is wisely invested? Together with the Portuguese EU Presidency, Countdown 2010 has set out to explore opportunities and responsibilities for private business and biodiversity. This newsletter’s feature is only the beginning.

Enjoy reading!

Sebastian Winkler

Sebastian Winkler
Head of Countdown 2010

May 2, 2007

^The Business Case for Biodiversity

Business is all about survival. In order to survive, businesses need to generate profits. But long-term sustainable development requires good environmental performance as well as good social performance. Dealing with environmental issues goes far beyond managing risks. Companies with strong environmental performance can develop this into a competitive advantage: they perform better on the stock market, manage their resources more efficiently, and provide better products and services. Sharing responsibility and taking action for biodiversity is not about charity, it is about survival. Healthy ecosystems support healthy people, sustainable companies, sound economies and hence sustainable development.

Nine out of 10 ethical funds performed better than the FTSE All Share index during 2006.

The Guardian, 24/02/07

Not all businesses are alike. For the natural resource companies – forestry, fisheries, water, mining, and oil and gas – biodiversity is mostly about ecosystem management. They must demonstrate that they know how to extract the resource with the smallest possible impact on biodiversity. For those extracting non-renewable resources, the issue involves using best environmental management practices. Other manufacturers can influence the site and resource-efficiency of their operations – and the environmental impact of the end product. For most of the service industry, addressing biodiversity issues may be all about their reputation, but they also need to take into account the impact of their operations,  for example the tourism industry, or get to grips with environmental risks, for example in the case of banking.

International institutions have acknowledged the need to engage with business on biodiversity issues. The European Commission’s Biodiversity Communication called for a partnership on business and biodiversity, while the Convention on Biological Diversity asks the private sector to engage in the implementation of the Convention. Countdown 2010 thus supports the Portuguese-EU Initiative on Business and Biodiversity.

^ Ecologies of Scale

Big business does not change easily, but when it does, it can change the world. Retailers are particularly powerful in their influence on the entire supply chain, and so it is particularly encouraging to see them competing in becoming the greenest. Marks and Spencer, for example, has promised to become carbon neutral, to cease sending waste to landfill by 2012, and to stop stocking any fish, wood or paper that has not been sustainably sourced. Tesco promises to attach a carbon label to all its goods. Wal-Mart commits to “play its part to restore the life support systems of the earth and:

  • to be supplied 100% by renewable energy;
  • to create zero waste;
  • to sell products that sustain our resources & environment."

Together with Conservation International and the Rocky Mountains Institute, the company analysed its business operations and supply chains for strategies to achieve these targets. Simple ideas can reach impressive economies of scale:

  • Installing energy-saving power units in delivery trucks saves $26 m fuel costs.
  • Recycling plastic wastes creates $28 m additional revenues.
  • Eliminating excess packaging for kids’ toys saves $2.4 m shipping costs, 3.800 trees and a million barrels of oil.
  • Getting every customer to install one efficient light bulb reduces electric bills by $3 bn and conserves 50 bn tons of coal.

The standards retailers set are often higher than those of governments. Campaigners have started to worry, “if Tesco and Wal-Mart are now friends of the earth, are there any enemies left?” However, whilst some business have shown impressive efficiency gains, they aren't likely to decrease demand. Green consumption is good for biodiversity, but less consumption is better.

^ How to Green your Business

No matter whether a transnational corporation or a small family business, every process of change starts with a commitment. Whether you want to secure your license to operate and avoid legal hassle, whether you want to improve your supplies and use them more efficiently, or whether you want to boost your attraction to ethically minded staff, investors and customers, you need to find your business case for biodiversity, and to secure senior level support for it.

“Rio Tinto aims to have a net positive impact on biodiversity by minimising the negative impacts of its activities and by making appropriate contributions to conservation in the regions in which it operates.”

As a next step, conduct a biodiversity assessment. Ask yourself:

  • What is the external biodiversity policy framework?
  • What issues are particularly relevant to the company?
  • What policies, practices and procedures does the company already have in places which address or relate to any of these issues?
  • What could the company do to strengthen and build on existing activities to benefit biodiversity and the business?

The results should lead to a corporate biodiversity strategy and action plan. In consultation with stakeholders and conservation organizations, your company can explore where to reduce its direct impact on biodiversity, how to use its resources more efficiently and which operations to offset.

^ Responsible and Accountable

Corporate social responsibility, in broad summary, is the ethical behavior of a company towards society. In particular, this means acting responsibly in its relationships with other stakeholders and its use of nature.

A number of mechanisms help companies to demonstrate this responsibility. Nearly 3.000 companies have signed up to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact. More specific principles exist for certain industries, eg. the financial sector, oil and gas development or the extractive industries

However, these principles can be hard to monitor or enforce, and lots of companies have therefore arranged for annual Corporate Social Responsibility Reports. The Global Reporting Initiative provides guidance on how organisations can disclose their sustainability performance, used by more than 1.000 organizations in 60 countries.

This transparency is good, but external verification is even better. Certification provides a trusted system for consumer choices. Whilst older labels for fair trade and organic agriculture established niche markets for a wide variety of products, newer certificates for wood and seafood are on their way towards setting the industry standard.

Although voluntary business action is appreciated, governments have a responsibility to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. The European Directive on Environmental Liability operationalised the ‘polluters pays’ principle in 2004, but 24 Member States had still failed to transpose this into national law by April 2007.

^ Portuguese-EU Initiative on Business and Biodiversity

Portugal has announced that one of the priorities during its Presidency of the European Union, in the second half of 2007, will be to strengthen the linkages between Business and Biodiversity protection. This commitment from the Portuguese Presidency is a direct response to CBD Decision VIII/17, and also to the EU Biodiversity Communication, which identifies strong partnerships with business as a critical element for protecting biodiversity and ensuring the long term delivery of ecosystem goods and services. In addition, the political agendas of the German, Portuguese and Slovenian EU Presidencies have also recognised as common priorities the protection of biodiversity and the integration of biodiversity criteria into business decision-making and corporate governance (“Business and Biodiversity”).

The first major milestone in the development of this European Business and Biodiversity Initiative will be a high-level international conference in Lisbon on 12th – 13th Nov, endorsed by the partnership between Portugal and the EC, with the support of The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Countdown 2010.

^Do it yourself: Celebrate Biodiversity Day

Biodiversity? If you are still getting a blank stare in response when you are talking about Countdown 2010 and the 2010 biodiversity target, it is time for some explanatory action. On the occasion of international biodiversity day on 22nd May, we would like to ask all Countdown 2010 partners to join us in some media work to communicate the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change. Within our biodiversity day action pack, you can find all material and tools you need to do your own press work. All you need to do is adapt the draft press release and send it to your media contacts.

^ State of Biodiversity: Biodiversity and Climate Change

Worried about biodiversity loss? The International Panel on Climate Change just gave us a lot more to worry about. In a seminal report on the impacts on climate change, the scientists outline how climate change affects ecosystems and species. In short, the report concludes that 30% of species face an increased risk of extinction if temperatures rise by 2ºC.

Half of all species are already altering their behaviour or shifting their ranges in response to global warming, and a quarter of the world’s coral reefs has died as a result of warming water. The remainder will probably disappear if average water temperatures rise by another degree—along with the fisheries and tourism they sustain.

The impacts of climate change will not be evenly distributed: A rising sea level mainly threatens low islands and the crowded river deltas of southern Asia. Shifting rain patterns would halve crop yields in Africa and expose up to 250 m people to water shortages. The temperature rise will be largest at the poles, potentially melting Greenland and the Antarctic. All over, extreme weather events will become more frequent.

“It's the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit”, summarises Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes the current knowledge on and the expected future impacts of climate change, and examines various methods of response to this phenomenon. The report is based on 29,000 pieces of data and therefore provides a confident evaluation of the impacts of climate change on the environment. A third report in May will look at ways to avert this crisis. One thing is already clear: we must reduce emissions drastically. To stop global warming at 2ºC, that would mean 60% per capita between now and 2030.

^Down to Earth: Model Regions to Boost Local Action on Biodiversity

Watch this space! Thirty-one local and regional authorities have already joined Countdown 2010. Five model regions will now lift this engagement to new levels. Countdown 2010 jointly with its partners  ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, and  ECNC (European Centre for Nature Conservation) is implementing a project focused on raising awareness of biodiversity loss in our own backyards and communicating the 2010 biodiversity target to regional and local authorities. The project - kindly supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality - above all aims to build a growing network of regions, cities and councils that walk the talk by working actively on nature conservation and are willing to share best practice. At the heart of the project will be the conservation activities of 5 European 'model regions'. These regions will be supported and accompanied throughout the implementation of best and exemplary biodiversity projects in order to provide ideas, lessons learned and motivation to other local and regional authorities.

^ Internal: Partners Assembly and Survey

Fancy a trip to Brussels in June? The Countdown 2010 Partners Assembly is definitely worth the ride. Taking place in Belgium’s Natural Science Museum, the meeting will focus on means to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target and create a networking space between Countdown 2010 partners. Ahmed Dhoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity will give the keynote speech on “Challenges on the way to save biodiversity by 2010”. You are more than welcome to stay on in Brussels to celebrate 50 years of European environmental policy during Green Week 2007 (12 – 15th June).

In the last newsletter, we asked you for contributions to the Countdown 2010 Partner Survey. Thanks to all who participated. We have published a summary of the results on the Countdown 2010 website, and are looking forward to continuing the debate with you.  

^Focus on... Business in Portugal

A growing group of Portuguese companies has joined Countdown 2010 and started building a multilateral network around the theme of ‘business and biodiversity’. The objective is to share ideas and projects and to put biodiversity and Nature conservation on the business agenda, as well as in the companies’ management plans.

AmBioDiv – Valor Natural joined Countdown 2010 during IUCN’s meeting in October 2006. As part of its commitments, AmBioDiv started promoting Countdown 2010 among an extended list of potential partners, including local governments, agricultural and forestry companies and tourism related businesses. Since then, four more small and medium enterprises have joined the initiative.

The first one was Bacteria, a marketing and communication company, which committed to spread the word by supporting eco-friendly business campaigns and events. The second was Herdade do Freixo do Meio, an agricultural society managing over 1.200 hectares dedicated to organic farming and sustainable cork oak forest. The company committed to including nature conservation within their priorities and to supporting the conservation of the European Wildcat.

Then Cascais Natura, a county agency dedicated to managing and promoting the natural areas of the Cascais County, near Lisbon, joined in and committed to define a gridline of guidelines and indicators regarding biodiversity management and ecoefficiency in their present and future projects. The newest partner is Cocinfar, an IT business, which committed to developing software applications that allow users to save huge amounts of paper, thus saving trees and fighting climate change.

Upcoming Events

20 May
Giornata delle Oasi (Italy)

22 May
International Biodiversity Day

3-15 June
14th CITES Conference of the Parties (The Hague, Netherlands)

5 June
World Environment Day

11 June
Countdown 2010 Partners’ Assembly

12-15 June
Green Week: Lessons from the past, challenges for the future

2-6 July
Twelfth meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (Paris, France)

News from Countdown 2010

20 April 2007 Land reform for the seas

18 April 2007 Protect the oceans to prevent commercial fisheries collapse by 2050

12 April 2007 Hesse steps up efforts to protect its biodiversity

11 April 2007 New road map for establishing marine protected area networks

9 April 2007 Educating Educators for Countdown 2010: A Creative Primer to Teaching Biodiversity

31 March 2007 5 steps to save biodiversity by 2010

30 March 2007 Ecuador signs the Countdown 2010 Declaration

29 March 2007 Norway confirms its commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010

28 March 2007 Engaging the cities of the world for life on earth

28 March 2007 Regional Committee starts Countdown 2010 for South America

28 March 2007 EU Environment Budget 2007 – 2013 (LIFE+)

24 March 2007 Sevilla 2007: Fifth European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns for a sustainable Europe

17 March 2007 G8+5 Environment Ministers to take action on biodiversity

17 March 2007 Sharing best practice for multi-stakeholder networks

13 March 2007 Countdown 2010 at the Convention for Biological Diversity

9 March 2007 Biodiversity 'fundamental' to economics

22 February 2007 The business case for biodiversity

More news

New Partners

Countdown 2010 would like to welcome its new partners:

You want to join as well? See here or speak to the Secretariat!

For more information please contact or visit

This newsletter is issued bi-monthly by Countdown 2010. We welcome comments and feedback to Wiebke Herding. Previous issues of this newsletter can be found at

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