WHAT BUSINESS CAN LEARN FROM THE WORLD’S NATURAL DIVERSITY

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Learning from the world’s natural diversity will solve many of today’s problems and teach us about sustainable approach to business. New funding sources that promote diversity provide the way forward, argues Giles Crosse.

Across the Earth there are myriad animal and plant species in danger of extinction. We must protect them to secure the glorious diversity of our planet. Diversity in our business practices is just as important. It creates stronger, more vibrant economies, with thriving SMEs and disruptive entrepreneurs. These two seemingly separate worlds of the environment and business are inextricably linked. A more enlightened approach to business is needed if we are to discover new ways to value forests beyond logging, or burning land to feed cattle.

I have visited unmapped tributaries of the Amazon in Peru. The variety of ants, birds and butterflies is breathtaking but just as colourful are the bustling open marketplaces in Cusco. It is pure theatre as the punters barter endlessly in the hope of securing a bargain. Nature’s diversity should influence our approach to economics. If we ignore its lessons a dystopian future will prevail where multinationals and conglomerates stifle competition and breed corruption. The few elite business leaders, unchallenged by disruptive entrepreneurs and SMEs, will meet in closed boardrooms, fixing prices and building pillars of sand.

There’s a direct link between misguided business practices and the depletion of natural resources. In a dysfunctional business world, vast supermarkets packed with beef raised on slashed and burned South American land make profits. Meanwhile, local butchers sell home- reared meat but find it hard to break even.

If we do not change our ways, uniformity in the business world could deplete the Amazon rainforest until it becomes devoid of species, creating an environment where a select few animals fight for scraps.

Solutions?

In February 2015, the European Commission and European Investment Bank launched two new financial instruments, designed to encourage private backing in schemes that contribute to priorities such as the reduction of energy consumption, the conservation of natural capital and protection of biodiversity.

This launch illustrates a new recognition of diversity’s role in both the environment and business. Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime

Affairs and Fisheries, said that, “to protect the diversity of our natural surroundings we need to promote the diversity of our funding sources. The Natural Capital Financing Facility is a new EU funding source that helps businesses to protect nature and adapt to climate change. Now these blended funds can help biodiversity blossom and truly become an engine for growth.”

Conferencing for the future

Elsewhere, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development could play a hand. Global advocates like Jeffrey Sachs, the United Nations Secretary- General’s Special Adviser on its Millennium Development Goals, will urgently call for action when leaders meet in Ethiopia.

Writing with Hendrik du Toit on Project Syndicate, a global thought leadership platform, Sachs said existing “financial markets serve two crucial purposes: to channel savings toward productive investments and to enable individuals and businesses to manage risks through diversification.” They continued: “The global economy […] is delivering aggregate annual growth of 3-4%, leading to a doubling of output every generation. Yet the global economy is not delivering sustainable growth […] In many parts of the world, growth has been deeply skewed in favour of the rich; and it has been environmentally destructive.”

Thought leaders like Sachs know that when growth is in the hands of a few people, there is a chance that the environment will suffer. But if wealth is more equitably distributed, it reduces the demands we put on the Earth.

The truth is blindingly apparent. We must embrace diversity in every sector to build stronger economies, better business possibilities and a richer, more sustainable planet. Earth’s innate biodiversity shows us how to protect humankind in the long term without giving up goods or capitalist systems. We need only look, listen and learn.

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Photo Credit: Kuster & Wildhaber Photography from flickr

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Giles Crosse is a journalist with specialist interest in the developing world, corporate social responsibility, and technical solutions to environmental challenges. His career has taken him to exotic destinations, such as the Peruvian Amazon, and Shallow Waters in Cambodia. He is looking forward to an inclusive planet, where greener business, happier people and better managed resources co-exist.