Biodiversity and Supply Chain Sustainability

Biological diversity, or biodiversity, “refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems,” and it is rapidly declining as a result of human activities that destroy wildlife habitat. Examples of these activities include cutting down forests, paving roads, and emitting greenhouse gases, which accelerate climate change and, in turn, modify ecosystems.

Habitat loss has implications for human health and well-being, such as the increased likelihood of spreading zoonotic diseases (like COVID-19) from animals to people. Thus, the protection of wildlife habitat is important from an anthropocentric (human-centered) perspective, aside from the ecocentric argument that nature is intrinsically valuable.

Biodiversity has been hailed as “the next big step in corporate sustainability,” but what does that really mean? Companies need to take action to reduce habitat loss, and they can start by monitoring and fighting deforestation in the supply chain. 

Some companies have approached biodiversity reactively instead of getting out in front of known risks using data, insight and action planning. Historically, leading brands of consumer goods (e.g., soybeans, cattle, paper, palm oil) have failed to address the problem quickly enough, despite signing on to collective action pledges several years ago.  

If your organization has a less-than-transparent supply chain, a major stake in at-risk agricultural commodities, or engages in large scale development, it is time to take action.  

Taking Meaningful Action

Addressing deforestation and biodiversity in a meaningful way involves the following elements:

1) knowing your supply chain; 

2) engaging suppliers;

3) implementing strong purchasing standards and monitoring mechanisms; and

4) being transparent, whether that means to customers, consumers, or both.

Today, most organizations are overwhelmed by the challenge of being transparent to a growing number of stakeholders (e.g., customers, consumers, regulators) because they lack the fundamental data on what is happening in the upstream (indirect) supply chain. However, there are easy, practical steps that you can start taking today to get ready to make commitments to your stakeholders on deforestation and biodiversity. These steps can and should be customized according to your organization’s size, position of influence within the supply chain, and level of risk exposure.

Getting Started

Every company has biodiversity and deforestation risk, especially those that use commodities sourced from at-risk materials or regions. Third Partners can work with you to identify and mitigate these risks through specific actions:

  • Data-driven benchmarking and risk assessment analyzing your sourcing data, global environmental and social risk data, analysis of action by peers and competitors, and emerging expectations of customers, regulators and NGOs
  • Developing strong policies on biodiversity and deforestation such as supplier and/or business code of conduct
  • Developing a customized roadmap to supply chain transparency and traceability
  • Mapping your end-to-end supply chain to identify previously unknown risks and opportunities at multiple tiers
  • Engaging first tier, second tier, and other indirect suppliers through surveys, self-assessments, and performance benchmarking
  • Detecting and monitoring location-specific business impact on protected ecosystems and endangered species using cutting edge supply chain mapping technology such as Sourcemap in tandem with third party scientific datasets including Protected Planet and the IUCN Red List 
  • Evaluating strategies to hold indirect suppliers accountable through third-party standards, audited certifications, and raw material traceability (if applicable)
  • Reporting to stakeholders on biodiversity related actions and performance metrics, including Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) guidelines

By ensuring that your suppliers (and their suppliers) are good stewards of forests and at-risk ecosystems, you can do your part to protect biodiversity and human health. Additionally, your efforts to monitor and prevent deforestation can help to combat climate change, given that forests are an essential link in the global carbon cycle.

Tackling biodiversity and deforestation may seem daunting, but we are here to help. Please contact us to discuss your needs.