Explore the resources below to assist in completing this action.
Biodiversity Guidance action 3.2.4
3.2.4 Decide on assessing impacts and/or dependencies
Due to the relationship between biodiversity and the quantity, quality, and resilience of ecosystem services, it is recommended that the scope of a biodiversity-inclusive natural capital assessment seeks to evaluate business dependencies on biodiversity, as well as impacts.
When deciding whether an assessment should include impacts on biodiversity it is important to bear in mind that impacts along the value chain may be direct, indirect, and cumulative, and to consider how this may affect the scope of the assessment. Cumulative impacts refer to “the total impact arising from the project (under the control of the developers), other activities (that may be under the control of the others, including other developers, local communities, government) and other background pressures and trends which may be unregulated” (BBOP 2012a). For example, the construction of one road may not have a large impact in a landscape, but multiple roads over the wider landscape may reduce habitat connectivity. Similarly, impacts can accumulate over time, so that relatively small impacts of each subsequent activity can add up to a large overall impact.
To understand and measure cumulative impacts from a biodiversity perspective, a key challenge is addressing the need for data on a landscape/population scale. Spatially explicit data, specifically the need for high-resolution data on habitats, human uses, and stressors, are especially critical in cumulative impact assessments (Halpern and Fujita 2013). However, due to significant data gaps on habitats, human uses, and stressors, it can be difficult to fully understand and measure the cumulative impacts. Additionally, the ecosystem response to cumulative impacts and the different thresholds of habitats and biodiversity features is poorly understood and it can be particularly difficult to measure these effects (Halpern and Fujita 2013).
Biodiversity Guidance action 1.2.2 (a)
a. Business impacts and dependencies on biodiversity
Your business activities may have numerous impacts on biodiversity and natural capital, which can have positive or negative effects. As with other aspects of natural capital, your business impacts on biodiversity occur through impact drivers, which include:
- Business use of natural resources as inputs to production processes, such as water use, terrestrial ecosystem use, or marine ecosystem use;
- Non-product outputs resulting from business activities as well as the use and disposal of products that the business creates, such as air pollutants, solid waste, or disturbances.
Your business impacts on biodiversity may be direct, indirect, and/or cumulative. Indirect impacts are triggered in response to the presence of your business projects or operations, rather than being directly caused by them. Cumulative impacts arise from the combined impacts of your operations, those of other organizations (including other businesses, governments, and local communities), and other background pressures and trends (BBOP 2012a). Similarly, impacts can accumulate over time, so that relatively small impacts of each subsequent activity can add up to a large overall impact. Your business impacts on biodiversity, particularly your indirect and cumulative impacts, may often be non-linear and difficult to predict (this is covered in more detail in the Measuring and Valuing Guidance).
A single business production process may have impacts on biodiversity through multiple direct, indirect, and/or cumulative mechanisms. For example, production of natural fibers in the textiles industry requires use of water and large areas of land for growing crops, and may produce air, water, and soil pollutants, as well as solid waste (ENCORE 2020). In this example, direct impacts on biodiversity could occur through converting habitats for crop production. Indirect impacts could occur in downstream areas when water is abstracted from natural sources and used for crop production. Cumulative impacts could occur through pollutants; even if the pollution from a single fiber producer is minimal, when combined with the pollution from other producers and industries operating in the landscape, there could be substantial negative impacts on sensitive species.
The ecosystem services provided by natural capital stocks, such as clean air and water, healthy soils, and raw materials, are ultimately the basis of all economic activity. Biodiversity underpins many of these ecosystem services. More than half of global gross domestic product (GDP) is highly or moderately dependent on nature, with business activities depending heavily on nature both in direct operations and in supply chains (WEF 2020a).
In the Protocol, a dependency is material if consideration of its value, as part of the set of information used for decision-making, has the potential to alter that decision. Some business activities have material dependencies on the presence of aspects of biodiversity, such as species or habitats. For example, the natural rubber industry depends on sap collected from specific species of tree. In contrast, some production processes depend on the diversity of habitats or species. For example, agricultural crops depend on a diverse range of animal pollinators for benefits such as being able to grow crops requiring pollination by different species, and being able to grow crops throughout the year when different pollinator species are active.