Biodiversity is becoming an increasingly important subject that industry is start to really think about and address. In recent years in the supply chain we have had a lot of reports, notably the Stern Repor t on Co2. Professor Wilding believes that Biodiversity is the next Co2 in logistics and supply chain management.
The reason for this is a recent report just published called the TEEB-report. It stands for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. What they are actually looking at is the whole issue of how biodiversity and industry impacts on biodiversity.
What is biodiversity?
One way to think about biodiversity is that it is all about encouraging variety. If we think about trying to encourage variety in terms of plant life, we actually encourage variety in terms of insect life. When we have lots of insects we also encourage a lot of birds, mammals, etc. For example, we can look at a garden in someone’s back yard. If you were to concrete your backyard, you will have very little biodiversity. You may have a few blades of grass or some ants. If you put down some grass in place of concrete, you encourage more insects, which in turn will encourage a limited number of insects and birds. As you plant some more types of plants in the garden, more variety of insects and plants are encouraged. In fact, a typical oak tree has about 250 species of insects living on it, in addition to the bird varieties it attracts.
From a business point of view the decisions we make have a big impact on biodiversity and our natural environment. This may appear to be a big issue, but it can be a little issue as well. For example, if you are building a new warehouse with large roofs, what do you do with all the water that comes off the roofs? If you just put it down the drain it is not going to encourage much variety in terms of biodiversity.
Some companies are already capturing the water runoff from the roof and making a wetland. If they have a wetland this encourages different types of plants, more variety and maybe even fish life etc. This encourages more variety and biodiversity.The way we act, even if it is just thinking about a simple building project, can have an impact on the amount of biodiversity. This is really good news for business because what we are starting to find, for example, is that if we start to wake up to the fact that biodiversity is particularly important we can start to do some things which impact it. Just thinking about the fact that Co2 is locked up in woodlands and that it is believed they hold about 3.7 trillion dollars, just by what is locked up in forests. As we act in industry and work in ways that encourage and minimize the impact on biodiversity, we will be doing a good thing. This will also impact the issue of global warming etc.
What are some of the things we need to consider as a business?
The first thing that is really important to consider our business impact on biodiversity. We can do this in a variety of different ways. One of the things Cranfield is currently researching is with a company called Middlemarch Environmental, a specialist consultancy on environmental management. This research project is looking at a biodiversity risk assessment tool. When we start to actually assess risks and opportunities and start looking at ways to encourage variety around us, whether in a warehouse or in terms of the way we move our goods, or where we source our goods.
Look for Opportunities
Another good thing about considering this is that we often find we get extra business opportunities presented to us. For example, businesses who have thought carefully about Biodiversity and have built captured runoff water from their facilities to create wetlands. These wetlands are then being able to become income generating activities in their own right. In fact, some lakes may even be used for water skiing, fish, etc.
What we need to do is have targets and measures in place. This is really important because we have to start measuring what the impact is and start understanding what that impact is. We need to make sure we get those targets and measures in place and ensure things are actually moving forward.
The point is we are all responsible for this. There are things we can do in our backyards, but also if you are a CEO of a business you can encourage your organization and the people within the organization to think about how to encourage this variety. This will be good for the planet, for your business, and at the end of the day will actually generate some additional opportunities for you to create income for the organization as well.
By looking at this in the right way we can have an impact on Co2, biodiversity, and protect the limited resources of our planet.
About Professor Richard Wilding
Professor Richard Wilding is a Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield School of Management in the UK.