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According to findings published recently in the McKinsey Quarterly, there is some good news about the newly emerging environmental issue of biodiversity, defined as the diversity of species, variety of ecosystems, and variability of genes: a majority of the executives responding to their June 2010 global survey saw biodiversity as more of an opportunity than a risk for their own organizations, and over half of respondents are already taking action to address it.  On the other hand, while the respondents did not consider it as critical as other sustainability issues including climate change, pollution, and human rights, a majority expressed agreement that threats to biodiversity are increasing and that corporate actions are part of that threat.

To be honest, I was surprised to learn that this is considered a new issue. Maybe the business execs were too busy taking marketing, actuarial science, and statistics courses while at university to have time for the natural sciences, but  it seems pretty common sense to me that biodiversity is an important aspect of sustainability. You don’t need to have a PhD in botany or chemistry to understand that business operations could pose threats to land and sea habitats and the food chains they support, and that those threats could have a ripple effect that is perhaps not entirely apparent until it is too late to reverse, with potentially dire consequences for our planet.

The study’s findings suggest that the risks related to biodiversity are perceived differently across industry segments; while manufacturing and energy industry respondents expressed concern over pressure to change their operations to reduce impact on biodiversity, the majority of respondents in the financial and high tech/telecom segments believe that no biodiversity issues will be a risk to their businesses. Actions being taken today are also diverse across different industries, but across all the surveyed industries, steps being taken widely include:

  • communicating use of renewable natural resources
  • changing operations to reduce use of renewable natural resources
  • measuring use of and impacts on renewable natural resources

McKinsey’s respondents indicated that actively seeking to identify new products or ideas from renewable natural resources is a leading action in the manufacturing segment, while joining industry organizations or otherwise participating in problem-solving sessions on use of natural resources is a leading activity in the energy industry.

The wide variety of biodiversity-related activities under way suggests that there is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all information solution to meet all needs, but filling in any gaps in your IT landscape to add value to your organization’s efforts seems like a prudent step. SAP’s Sustainability Performance Management is one of the new tools that, along with their GRC, EHS Management, and BI solutions, could help your organization, or your client, develop a strategy and decide on next steps. Whether the primary focus is the supply chain, regulatory compliance, consumer education efforts, participation in or contributions to non-profit efforts, or participation in lobbying efforts, getting the business intelligence, compliance, sustainability, and other technology solutions ready for the next big thing could help ensure that IT is ready to partner with the business to develop new strategies for dealing with biodiversity issues.

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