EXXARO Business and Biodiversity Research Project
1. Introduction and background
Biodiversity is a scientific term used to describe the full range of living organisms in terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are apart. It represents the sum-total of the Earth’s living resources and organisms. It is characterised by the variability among those organisms from all sources, including diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems (CBD, 1993). Most industries both impact and depend on well-functioning ecosystems and critical goods and services, such as fresh water, fiber and food. In effect, most development processes that interact with or depend on the exploitation of natural resources tend to negatively tilt the ecological balance. It is becoming increasingly clear that many of the world’s ecosystems are in decline, and this poses significant challenges to business, public policy, and society at large.
With funding from Exxaro, the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership (ALCRL) is implementing a project to generate the required evidence and knowledge on the nexus between business and biodiversity (B&BD) in South Africa and how best to address the challenges evident in this nexus. The project is based on a number of assumptions, for example, that collective responsibility, leadership and action are required to address the complex challenges that businesses face as they interact with or make use of biodiversity; that businesses must anticipate new policies and regulatory frameworks to be developed and deployed by governments in response to a declining natural resource base; and that business and biodiversity are not necessarily strange bed-fellows but two systems that can co-exist in harmony if the right conditions are provided. Through a relentless focus on what works on the ground, the project seeks to generate practical and constructive solutions that can be shared with the business sector, policy makers, key stakeholders and the broader scientific community to catalyse change.
2. Goal of the project
The project seeks to facilitate and enhance thought-leadership on the interface between business and biodiversity. Through research, ongoing engagement, advocacy, and public discourse, key stakeholders will be facilitated to ask pertinent and at times difficult questions regarding the role and contribution of business to sustainable biodiversity use.
3. Key project components
Three key components of the project are identifiable: Research; education; and advocacy.
3.1 Research objectives
Specific research objectives of the project may be summarised as follows:
(i) To fulfil an interdisciplinary research and collaboration role and in the process, increase the B&BD body of knowledge;
(ii) to publish research results and collated body of knowledge into specific knowledge-products for various audiences; and
(iii) to mainstream the research results in policy and practice with a view to influencing change on the ground.
3.2 Education objectives
The educational objective of the project is to provide leading and relevant education programmes in the field of B&BD. This includes both short and full courses, guest lectures, and research-based postgraduate degree supervision in fields related to B&BD. The specific educational objectives are to:
(i) build capacity in the B&BD domain through the establishment of education programmes at the University of Pretoria and the incorporation of relevant material in curricula;
(ii) develop and run targeted short courses for national level actors; and
(iii) teach and supervise postgraduate students at MPhil and PhD degree levels.
3.3 Advocacy objectives
The advocacy component of the project is designed to enable the ALCRL to play a leading role in facilitating the establishment of an active network of experts (community-of-practice) in the field of business and sustainable biodiversity conservation, as well as to provide a platform for companies and experts to share experiences and best practices on sustainable development issues and advocate their implementation. Specific objectives of the component include to:
(i) widely disseminate the body of knowledge generated from research findings and educational programmes;
(ii) facilitate the mainstreaming of research results and best practice in public policy and business domains and generate the impetus for significant change on the ground; and
(iii) establish and participate in broad-based dialogue platforms that support the above goals through discussions and ultimately, reaching agreement on appropriate solutions to the national biodiversity conservation challenge.
As a focal point for education, research and strategic advocacy at various levels, the ALCRL will support the goals of sustainability, believing that there is ample scope to improve collective responsibility and ensure ‘smart’ business practices, better environmental policies, and effective regulatory frameworks. Ultimately, halting biodiversity loss and reducing ecosystem degradation is a shared responsibility and all stakeholders (including the private sector) must be committed to generating workable solutions. Thus, the ALCRL's approach to the project is to work with other biodiversity expert groups, government departments, the private sector, civil society and other interested stakeholders to enhance collective effort and responsibility.
Contact: Claudious Chikozho
Telephone: +27 12 420 6965