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Survey Says... Biodiversity is the Next Big Thing

A global survey of over 1,500 company executives found mixed results for biodiversity (McKinsey Global Survey 2010). On the one hand, biodiversity is seen as an opportunity or a risk for over half the respondents, with Water scarcity leading the list of risks. Close to forty percent of respondents, however, saw no risk to their company from biodiversity.

Out of a choice of 12 possible environmental/sustainability issues, however, biodiversity was at the bottom of the list of issues of importance to business. Climate change/energy efficiency, waste/pollution/recycling, and water scarcity/water quality/sanitation were the top issues for business. Biodiversity was more important to companies in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and energy industries.

Biodiversity was cited as being important to a corporation's reputation, mission or values, and regulatory environment (see Exhibit 1 ). Only 17% of respondents cited biodiversity as important for attracting funds from investors.

Over half the respondents reported taking some form of action related to biodiversity, with communication and actions addressing use of renewable natural resources topping the list. Also, 42% of respondents indicated taking action to develop business opportunities from biodiversity: "actively seeking to identify new products or ideas from renewable natural resources." A quarter of the companies had a formal biodiversity policy or strategy.

The survey also found "little consensus on what might spur [companies] to take action; the top choice, selected by only 23 percent of respondents, is regulatory requirements. Separately, almost equal shares (37 and 36 percent, respectively) cite consumers and regulators as the stakeholders who are likeliest to encourage action."

Finally, the survey found that tax incentives or subsidies for conservation actions were the most-favored type of 'regulation.' As well, "38% say industry-created voluntary standards on the use of renewable natural resources would be acceptable."

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