“Business as usual has brought 100 million species to the brink of extinction. Our own survival depends on the endurance of our planet’s rich biological diversity, and we must act to avoid reaching a tipping point that is irreversible.” ~ Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations

In light of World Wildlife Day, taking place on Tuesday, 03 March 2020, Chris Bischoff, reputation manager and sustainability specialist at Reputation Matters, shares some important considerations of sustainable economic development to protect biodiversity and the ecological network.

Business growth depends on healthy ecosystems

People, business, and economies live on resources that come directly from nature. It is increasingly important for the business community to work together to avoid irreversible ecological degradation. “The human race is not a separate species that lives outside of the ecological network. We need to shift away from a human centred approach to economic development to an eco-centric approach, which encompasses us as part of the ecological network.  In this way we can promote sustainable development,” says Bischoff.

“Along with the importance of protecting nature and biodiversity, sustainability is a smart financial investment. When finite resource reserves, such as coal, start dwindling, prices for these commodities will increase. This has already been evident for many years. Renewable resources such as solar are fast becoming the option that makes the most sense,” says Bischoff.

Go beyond corporate social investment

“While investing in a local community initiative is great, a beach cleanup or recycling drive is not going to save a threatened species,” says Bischoff. “With many species at a critical conservation status and many environmental issues reaching tipping point, having an environmental policy and management plans is essential to reduce environmental impacts along the company’s entire value chain or product life-cycle.”

Communicate your environmental performance

While knowing your businesses impacts throughout its value chain or product lifecycle is important, equally as important is knowing whether your key stakeholders and business partners know what your company is doing to manage its environmental impacts. “Communicating your environmental performance increases support from your stakeholders, forces them to comply with your environmental policy and management plans, and will improve your reputation as a sustainable business,” says Bischoff. “It is also very important to be transparent about your company’s sustainability. All too often companies are called out for ‘greenwashing’, claiming that their business is sustainable or products are environmentally friendly; this has become a quick marketing tactic to gain consumer support.”

As with any company policy, an environmental policy needs to be embraced by the leadership team. “For a company to successfully implement an environmental policy or plan, employees need to comply; it is therefore important that the leadership team ‘walks the talk’, to encourage employees to follow suite,” says Bischoff.

Reputation Matters has developed a sustainability check to measure how well your stakeholders know your company’s environmental performance and how sustainable you are perceived to be.