The time for biodiversity business

16 July 2009 | News story

What do ecotourism excursions, wild flowers, medicinal and aromatic plants, essential oils, herbal teas and jams have in common? They are all products of healthy ecosystems.

Many conservation organizations are now developing businesses based on biodiversity as part of their conservation strategies, according to a survey of 80 IUCN members.

Such businesses include sustainable rattan production, animal plasma manufactured for agricultural fertilizer and handmade paper made from invasive plants.

All the products have a common bottom line – the conservation of biodiversity. They also involve local communities in the management of the businesses and the sharing of benefits.

“Conservation organizations have traditionally played an active role in supporting the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods for communities when those communities were engaged in the unsustainable use of natural resources,” says Giulia Carbone, of IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme. “They have therefore a good tradition in developing biodiversity businesses.”

In an effort to strengthen IUCN Members’ capacity to develop even more successful businesses, the IUCN Business and Biodiversity Programme embarked on a project to determine IUCN Members’ experiences in developing biodiversity businesses as part of their conservation programmes.

The project, funded by the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning, assessed IUCN Members’ needs and determined how to enhance the success of their efforts. It also allowed the members to share their experiences, lessons learned and challenges encountered in developing such businesses.

Approximately 80 IUCN Members were identified as using business development as part of their conservation programmes. Of these, approximately 63 were short-listed based on further research into their work and subsequently contacted for interview.

In this selection process, an effort was made to ensure a fair representation of the countries and regions in which IUCN works. A total of 40 IUCN Members then provided input into the research through semi-structured telephone interviews and by sending reference material whenever this was available.

The interviewed Members originated from more than 20 countries worldwide, from Honduras and Botswana to Jordan and Lao PDR.

This project resulted in the publication The Time for Biodiversity Business, illustrating a selection of the many great businesses developed by the conservation organizations that participated in this study.

The 22 biodiversity businesses described in this publication range from the more traditional ecotourism operations to natural ingredients that support the growing wellness industry. The products are located in all regions of the world. To complement the specific stories, the point of view of ten experts on issues such as the role of governments, the need to share benefits with communities and the experience of multinationals are provided.

A Guide to Enterprise Development for Conservation Organisations, providing initial ideas on how to set up biodiversity businesses, and a report on the Lessons learned from building biodiversity businesses for conservation, were also produced.

To download the documents, available in English and French, click here http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/business/bbp_our_work/biobusiness/