(28th November 2014, Colombo): The World Biodiversity Congress 2014 was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka for the first time this year, from 24th – 27th November to discuss various issues pertaining to biodiversity. It was organised by the Global Scientific Research Foundation, Bangalore, India and as such was attended by pre-eminent internationals who are serving as conservationists, scientists, academics and environmentalists. During the Congress, the Business and Biodiversity (B&B) Platform was invited to host a special session on ‘Streamlining Biodiversity in Business’. The B&B platform, which is an initiative of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Dilmah Conservation, is a steering body that is driving private sector initiatives on biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka.
The session presented and discussed private sector led conservation initiatives in Sri Lanka that are addressing national needs. Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati of Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway said: “We must not just look at the need for conservation but also the opportunities in terms of engagement with private sector stakeholders. Communities are able to be better managers of biodiversity and natural resources and this is in respect to the work of the private sector and business community as well.”
Dr. Pisupati said he was heartened to hear more voices in the B&B Platform echo the need to put communities at forefront of biodiversity conservation as much as it is important for governments to demonstrate that biodiversity makes perfect business sense.
Chair of B&B Platform, Dilhan C. Fernando said: “Business is the largest potential actor in terms of taking a new mind set or principles of a new economy that would be more environmentally friendly. Dilmah’s commitment to biodiversity began on ethical grounds, on my father’s commitment to making business a matter of human service.” “The B&B platform is an element that addresses the simple notion of nature and profit and how they relate to each other,” said Mohammed Rafiq, key note speaker and Director of the Long Run Initiative of the Zeitz Foundation. He added that making profit alone is not enough as these profits have to be used responsibly by society because without profits one cannot carry out conservation activities.
Reiterating that companies can lead in aspects of conservation, Praveen Gnanam of Tokyo Cement explained how it bases projects according to its vision statement “setting the standards, that exceeds expectations” and said the company is doing its best to set better standards.
Adding however, it is up to the market to accommodate this through the concept of supply and demand. Highlighting the results of establishing hospitality and leisure amidst traditional eco land, Chaminda Jayasekera of Jetwing Vil Uyana said this is only a business but also a viable entity due to elements that promote awareness and conservation to visitors.
“The way the private sector views Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is changing. In India there is a full-fledged legislation on CSR.
It is no more a kind of a prerogative of a company to deal with conservation efforts the way they want,” said Dr. Pisupati. In this vein, Dr. S. Faizi, Chairperson of the CBD Alliance – Convention of Biological Diversity and an ecologist based in India concluded: “Companies need to establish and grow a culture of investing in environmental and social causes, similar to that of some companies seen in Sri Lanka.”