This is part two of a two part series. Part one is available here
As the harvest of agricultural commodities on land threatens
biodiversity, so does the harvest of fish and other marine life from the
world's oceans. Overfishing has pushed three-fourths of marine fish stocks
to their biological limits. Coral reefs and other marine and coastal
ecosystems around the world are suffering from destructive fishing and
aquaculture practices, as well as pollution from agricultural runoff and
other land-based sources.
Unilever, the world's largest buyer of seafood, partnered with WWF to
establish the Marine Stewardship Council
in 1997. The MSC developed a standard for "sustainable and well
managed" fisheries and a label for products from fisheries complying
with the standard. McDonald's is working with the Center for Environmental
Leadership in Business to assess fishing practices and identify actions
that the company and its suppliers can take to protect marine biodiversity
in key fisheries.
Energy and Mining
As global demand for energy and minerals grows, oil, gas, and mining
companies expand into biodiversity-rich ecosystems around the world,
risking biodiversity loss by land clearing, habitat conversion, pollution,
and agricultural colonization along access roads and pipeline corridors.
Global energy and mining companies have become prime targets of
environmental advocacy groups. ExxonMobil, Shell and Freeport McMoRan have
been the targets of international criticism for the environmental impacts,
conservation and human rights abuses.
Some companies have begun to form partnerships with conservation
organisations to reduce the ecological footprint of their operations
and to contribute to conservation. Mobil has worked with Conservation
International, Shell with the Smithsonian Institution, Chevron partnered
with the WWF and Rio Tinto has worked with a number of research
institutes and NGOs.
In 2001, a group of leading energy companies and conservation
organisations launched the Energy
& Biodiversity Initiative. The EBI is convened by the Center for
Environmental Leadership in Business and its partners include BP, Chevron
Texaco, Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International, The
Nature Conservancy, Shell International, the Smithsonian Institution,
Statoil, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In 2002, the newly
formed International Council for Mining and Metals announced that it would
work with IUCN to develop biodiversity best
practices for the global mining industry.
Tourism can be a cause of environmental damage as well as a positive
force for conservation. One of the world's largest industries, it is
projected to expand four-fold from its 1996 levels by 2010. Nature-based
tourism in areas with significant biodiversity is increasing more rapidly
than the industry as a whole.
Tourism involves major infrastructure development, increased demands
for water, energy and waste disposal, and an influx of new people, ideas
and cultures. The tourism industry has perhaps the strongest incentive to
conserve biodiversity as the future of its business depends on protecting
the natural beauty and cultural richness its customers pay to visit.
Despite the strong business case for conservation, the industry has
been slow to develop partnerships with conservation organisations, due in
part to the structure of the industry, which is highly decentralized.
Seventy per cent of cruise ship destinations are within the global
biodiversity hotspots. The industry has made significant investments in
waste disposal and pollution prevention but other impacts have been
largely ignored, especially those outside U.S. waters. These impacts
include damage to coral reefs from ships' anchors and tourist diving
expeditions, and pollution and habitat degradation associated with port
Conservation organisations should partner with developers to reduce the
impact of new hotels and resorts in sensitive coastal regions. The
International Hotels Environment Initiative (IHEI), a program of the Prince
of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, was established in 1992
to improve the environmental performance of the global hotel industry.
IHEI recently launched a program with the Center for Environmental
Leadership in Business to develop guidelines for the siting, design and
construction of hotels and resorts, with special emphasis on the
Global tour operators control a significant flow of tourist traffic
through bulk purchases and are important sources of leverage to influence
the environmental practices of local hotels. The United Nations
Environment Program launched the Tour
Operators' Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development (TOI) in
2000. It now includes 26 of the world's leading tour operators.
This is an edited version of a paper given to the New America Foundation on 20 November 2002.