An introduction to biodiversity for SMEs

Your environment

Tackling biodiversity loss is increasingly important. But what does this mean for SMEs?

Within our network of SMEs it’s been great to see an increased focus on net zero, but we also need to consider biodiversity loss and the importance of nature. This resource shows how SMEs can start taking action.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of living species such as all the different plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi that exist within a given space. This could be as broad as biodiversity on Earth as a whole, or a single patch of land (or your garden). Biodiversity can be measured at a genetic, species and ecosystem level.

Depending on where you live in the world, there’ll be differences in biodiversity due to climate conditions. You’ll see higher biodiversity around the tropics and coasts as their environmental conditions encourage higher plant growth, but biodiversity is everywhere!

Biodiversity Loss Facts

Across the globe biodiversity has been rapidly decreasing. Species are disappearing at speeds that vastly surpass the expected, and natural, rate of extinction.

When we look at the UK, you may be shocked to learn that we’re now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. [Source: 2023 State of Nature Report]

In fact, the UK has less than half of its biodiversity remaining because of human activity. Some of the top factors contributing to the UK’s biodiversity loss is due to intensive agriculture, unsustainable fishing, and the effects of climate change.

On a global level, the Living Planet Report 2022 from WWF found that:

  • Global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% on average since 1970
  • One million plants and animals are threatened with extinction
  • 1-2.5% of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish have already gone extinct
  • Species are rapidly losing their climatically determined habitats

Why is biodiversity relevant to businesses?

Biodiversity is critical to supporting everything in nature that we need to survive. The loss of biodiversity, or the biodiversity crisis, is not only an environmental issue but a social and economic one.

The benefits we receive from nature are known as ecosystem services. These services are essential for human well-being and include providing clean air and water, pollination, waste decomposition, and regulating the climate. These all depend on a healthy biodiversity. As biodiversity declines, ecosystems break down and lose their ability to deliver vital services.

As well as ecosystem services, businesses rely on nature for resources, such as food, minerals and building materials, and let’s not forget a healthy and prosperous workforce and customer base. Biodiversity loss will have a direct impact on your business operations. For example, products becoming unavailable or more expensive because of increasing scarcity of supply.

We shouldn’t treat the ‘environment’ and ‘society’ as separate. Nature is fundamental to our lives and the world’s economy. Over 50% of global GDP is dependent on materials and services delivered by ecosystems. Already, the decline in ecosystem functionality is costing the global economy $5 trillion per year.

When we consider this, it’s easy to see why businesses should pay attention to biodiversity loss and do what they can to stop the crisis.

What legislation is there?

The UK is part of a set of international biodiversity targets called the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) which has a global mission to halt and reverse the loss of nature by 2030, and achieve recovery by 2050.

Target 15 commits all governments to require all large and transnational companies and financial institutions to assess and disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity by 2030. This includes all operations, and supply and value chains. We can expect that as large corporations look to make their supply chains more sustainable, they will start expecting more from the smaller businesses they work with. It is likely that larger businesses will use the guidance and recommendations from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).

One sector experiencing new regulation is the property sector. The Biodiversity Net Gain Regulations (BNG), becomes law in early 2024 and will require all new developments to deliver a minimum of 10% increase in biodiversity compared to the pre-development baseline.

What can you do?

Promoting biodiversity in your business might be easier than you think. If you’re already working to reduce your carbon footprint, you probably have a number of initiatives which will promote biodiversity and create a more sustainable business:

  • Review purchasing habits – Your supply chain is where you can make an impact! Try to go paperless, choose local suppliers, and use materials that are sustainably sourced. For products and packaging choose materials that can be recycled or are compostable. You can purchase recycled products or products that have an environmental certification such as the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). You have power in your buying habits and can show your support for biodiversity through choosing suppliers that are more sustainable.
  • Save energy and reduce waste – Cut the running costs of your business and support biodiversity by minimising negative environmental impacts associated with emissions and waste production. Composting your own food and organic waste can reduce waste to landfill and provide a new wildlife habitat for insects.
  • Grow food and plants – If you have outdoor space, planting native and pollinator-friendly species can benefit long-term biodiversity conservation. If you don’t have outdoor space, why not try creating a green roof? Having a green roof reduces energy costs as they significantly reduce the need to cool or heat the space. Even a space as small as a bike or bin shed roof can be transformed into a garden to help biodiversity. A co-benefit of these green spaces are the positive impact on peoples’ mental health.
  • Encourage wildlife – Provide shelter for bats and birds by installing bat and bird boxes onto buildings and in trees; put up bird feeders (especially during winter); or get creative and build a ‘bug hotel’.
  • Engage your team with nature – Use a staff volunteering day to support a local initiative such as tree planning or litter picking and get talking about biodiversity.
  • Financial investments – If you’re thinking about carbon offsetting consider investing in ecosystem restoration initiatives. Recovering nature and creating carbon-rich habitats have clear co-benefits for climate change mitigation and adaption, and biodiversity. Look into projects such as peatland restoration, restoring seagrass beds, and tree planting.
  • Talk to others – Find out what others are doing to help biodiversity. Speak to your customers, suppliers and peers – we’re all in this together!

This was last updated in October 2023 by Heart of the City. We’ve created these resources for individual SMEs to use. None of our content is to be adapted, reused or repurposed for commercial use.