Biodiversity is the variety of all life, animals, plants, fungi, etc within a particular habitat, country or even the world.
All businesses have some effect on the environment and the ecosystems within it. This can be more obvious and immediate impacts such as large factories pumping out clouds of pollution, through to more subtle impacts such as the vehicle emissions generated by staff commuting to the office. Ultimately, all businesses must operate sustainably in order to survive in the long term. Biodiversity decline is a real and growing problem in the 21st century and one that is likely to challenge the viability of many businesses in the future. A biodiversity strategy can not only help a business to do their bit to halt declines in biodiversity, but it can also bring a range of business benefits.
Benefits for business – Biodiversity loss can have direct impacts on your business operations. For example, products becoming unavailable or more expensive because of the increasing scarcity of supply. Certain timber products are good examples where once common timber varieties are increasingly rare. Climate change, sea level rises and ocean acidification have huge implications not only for biodiversity but also for food production. These issues can have significant supply chain and cost implications for some businesses.
Benefits for customers – Increasingly, customers and consumers are demanding more ethical and environmentally friendly products and services. By demonstrating to customers that your business operates sustainably and with a strong biodiversity action plan, your business projects a positive corporate image. This can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Benefits for people – It is well documented that people are happier when they live and work in areas with more green space. For example, access to parks has a large impact on the wellbeing of local populations. This can have big implications for motivation levels of a business’s workforce. Landscaping and creating green-spaces in and around the workplace can create a more motivated workforce. Knock on effects can be wide-ranging, from improved staff retention to reduced sick days. In turn, this improves productivity and business performance.
Benefits for wildlife – Many species in the UK have suffered dramatic population declines in recent years. Numbers of once common species such as the hedgehog have been decimated. These declines are often associated with habitat loss, habitat fragmentation or agricultural intensification. By enhancing part of your site for wildlife or enabling a local conservation group to expand their work, your business can deliver real benefits to local wildlife populations.
There are several ways in which your business can implement biodiversity.
A few tips are given below:
Enhance and create habitats on your site with a wildlife garden.
Transform unused land into a low-maintenance wildlife garden by having an area of long grasses and nectar-rich wildflowers. This will not only provide important habitat for bees, butterflies and other insects but will provide a relaxing area for staff during breaks.
Including a dead wood pile will encourage hedgehogs and insects to hibernate. Creating a pond with different depths and aquatic plants will provide habitat for amphibians, aquatic insects and damsel and dragonflies. This, in turn, will attract birds and other animals.
Retaining or planting hedgerows and trees will provide habitats for nesting birds.
If you have no areas on-site to enhance or develop, your company could sponsor a biodiversity project, such as a local nature reserve or wildlife garden in a local school.
Planting wildlife friendly trees, shrubs and plants will provide important habitat to support biodiversity and could form part of a pollution reduction strategy. This could include the following:
– Berry or fruit-bearing trees such as crab apple, bird cherry or holly which provide habitat and food for invertebrates and birds;
– Climbers such as honeysuckle and ivy provide nectar, berries, and shelter for insects and birds. They can also improve the energy efficiency characteristics of a building as climbing plants can be used to help retain warmth;
– Lavender – the flowers attract bees and the seeds are eaten by finches;
– Early-flowering plants such as snowdrops, grape hyacinth, wild daffodil, primrose, lungwort, honesty, wallflower, forget-me-not, and violet are good for bees which can struggle to find sources of nectar earlier in the year;
– Late flowerers such as Michaelmas daisy, phlox, autumn crocus, scabious, goldenrod, sedum and winter aconite support butterflies and bees later into the year as other nectar sources become more scarce.
Encourage bats and birds
Provide essential shelter for bats and birds by installing bat and bird boxes onto buildings and in trees. Broken pallets can be re-used and recycled by making them into bird boxes.
Put up bird feeders around the site as these provide an invaluable source of food for a variety of birds, especially during winter.
Remember wildlife in new buildings
Incorporate spaces for bats and birds if new buildings are being designed and developed for your company. For example, installing a variety of specifically designed nest and bat rooting boxes for birds and bats. These can be installed on nearby trees, on the exterior of the building or incorporated directly into the structure of the walls.
Increase staff awareness and involvement
Encourage teamwork and involvement with a biodiversity plan or project on-site (e.g. creation of a wildlife garden or pond). Promote participating in biodiversity conservation volunteer activities outside the office (e.g. tree planting within the community). Use notice boards, posters, and newsletters to raise awareness of environmental issues such as biodiversity conservation, energy saving, and recycling at work.
Become a species champion
The UK Biodiversity Group has established a comprehensive list of species and habitats which need conservation. An action plan has been developed for each of these, and a ‘lead partner’ appointed to oversee the implementation of the plan. Companies are able to sponsor such plans through the lead partner and in doing so are known as ‘Species Champions’. This can include fundraising or volunteering.
A company’s Biodiversity Action Plan outlines the steps a company will take to promote and enhance biodiversity. It can include:
– A plan integrated into an Environmental Management System so that the impact of operations on biodiversity may be measured and improved; and
– Cooperation with and support of local conservation groups or national non-governmental organisations in order to enhance biodiversity on a local or national scale.
Support local wildlife projects and charities
Sponsorship or contribution of materials, working in partnership with, and volunteering your own time, are all ways in which you could support local wildlife projects and charities.
Save energy and reduce waste
Increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste can help biodiversity by minimising the environmental impacts associated with any emissions to air, land or water and the production of waste. Increasing energy efficiency will also cut the running costs of your business.
Reducing the amount of materials used (e.g. in packaging), reusing materials (e.g. reusing paper that has only been printed on one side) and recycling waste (paper, cans, plastic, mobile phones, computers, printer cartridges, and glass) reduces landfill. Food and other organic waste can be composted on site – reducing waste to landfill and providing new wildlife habitat for insects.
Responsible sourcing of products and managing your supply chain
Ensure that your raw materials and products are coming from sustainable sources that protect biodiversity. For example, purchasing recycled products or products that have an environmental certification. This will minimise impacts on biodiversity. Well, known examples of such schemes include the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
How We Can Help You
Acer Ecology can improve your biodiversity credentials by developing a company biodiversity strategy, habitat management plan or biodiversity action plan. We can also provide ecological training or Continuing Professional Development (CPD) support.
For more information on our business and biodiversity services, call us on 029 2065 0331.