By Michael Kwame Nkonu, IUCN SUSTAIN-Africa Programme Coordinator -
Business and biodiversity are often seen as unrelated, at least, this is the case in conventional business thinking. However, this traditional mindset is quickly changing and in the last decade, there has been growing recognition that business and biodiversity are interdependent. Furthermore, businesses are more aware of their impact to the environment and how business sustainability can also be significantly impacted by biodiversity. Globally, businesses are taking major steps to conserve biodiversity due to increased consumer awareness and public demand for businesses to be responsible.
In Tanzania, engagement in biodiversity conservation is championed by business leaders through the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania (CEOrt) – a unique approach that could be instrumental in systemic change of how businesses in Tanzania regard, operate and work on environmental issues.
The CEOrt is a formal group of CEOs leading key businesses in Tanzania from diverse sectors including Telecommunications, Financial Services, Tourism, Communications, Industry and Trade. The main objective of the CEOrt is to constructively engage with government, its development partners, and other stakeholders for a more conducive environment for businesses to thrive and support Tanzania’s development.
In collaboration with IUCN SUSTAIN-Africa Programme, the CEOrt organized its first ever roundtable on biodiversity conservation and business in Tanzania. On 11 April 2017, Over 30 business leaders participated in the forum which focused on creating linkages between the environment and business and; to understand how businesses can positively impact the environment in their operations. Aptly stated by the Chairman of the CEOrt, Ali Mufuruki “business sustainability is critically linked to environmental sustainability and businesses in Tanzania can no longer sit on the fence regarding biodiversity conservation”. The event witnessed enthusiastic participation of business leaders who expressed an urgent need for the CEOrt and its members to actively engage in biodiversity conservation. In order to encourage members and move the biodiversity conservation agenda forward, the forum recognized that:
- moving beyond the emotional perspective to demonstrating benefits of biodiversity conservation for businesses will catalyse engagement and support mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation in business operations;
- a strategic approach is critical and for that matter CEOrt will champion ‘Brand Tanzania’ agenda with the vision of promoting biodiversity conservation at the national level;
- partnerships with environmental organizations is critical for businesses to engage and CEOrt will strengthen its relationship with IUCN in the development and implementation of the biodiversity component of the 5 year strategy.
According to Santina Benson, CEOrt Executive Director, a priority area of focus is for the CEOrt to ensure biodiversity is a key component of the 5 year strategy to be launched later this year. The IUCN SUSTAIN programme is working with the CEOrt on the biodiversity component of the strategy. The strategy will focus on developing awareness of the role and impact of biodiversity on businesses, building capacity to enable businesses to assess and mitigate biodiversity related risks, and perhaps most importantly, sustainability monitoring and reporting of member businesses in order to demonstrate impact.
"Members and partners of the IUCN SUSTAIN-Africa programme are thrilled by the enthusiasm and urgency with which the CEOrt is engaging on issues concerning biodiversity conservation. The aim is to make IUCN’s vast and global experience in conservation, including business and biodiversity, available to the CEOrt and its members in their efforts to conserving nature for sustainable business and livelihoods in Tanzania", says Michael Kwame Nkonu, IUCN SUSTAIN-Africa Programme Coordinator.