The Business & Biodiversity Platform: Forging New Relationships
The Beginning of an Idea

With a heightened awareness of the consequences of rampant industrialization, and with the world attempting to now transition to a more climate neutral economy, businesses are beginning to realize that incorporating environmental concerns in their long term plans is no longer simply a matter of presenting a “green image”, but a necessity. Over the last decade, IUCN Pakistan, both through its individual engagements with the private sector and through its Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme, has been supporting companies in moving away from traditional CSR activities (generally temporally bound, one-off initiatives), towards conservation projects and programmes that have an element of sustainability.

The idea of establishing a Business and Biodiversity Platform in Pakistan is one that was inspired by a similar model that has been implemented by IUCN Sri Lanka, with great success. The Platform is an attempt to institutionalise what have so far been sporadic, one-off partnerships with individual businesses, with the aim of bringing together private sector players to define their key dependencies and impacts on the natural environment, and to explore a common vision and way forward that companies can work with both independently and in collaboration with, to support sustainable development and conservation goals.

Meanwhile, recent global and national policies are also opening new opportunities for businesses to enhance their CSR commitments, notably through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. On a national level, the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme is a good example. The Platform therefore provides Pakistani businesses support in order to better comply with environmental regulations, and to aid sustainable development by mainstreaming sustainability considerations in their operations. Moreover, businesses themselves are dependent on our limited stock of natural capital, so it makes sense to bring them into any decision-making process regarding how this stock is used.

The Roundtable

In order to introduce companies to the concept of such a platform, a roundtable was jointly organized by IUCN Pakistan and MFF on April 20th 2017. The invite-only event attracted CEOs, senior representatives, and top level decision makers from 18 private sector organizations, and was co-hosted by the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) and IUCN. It was also attended by Sri Lankan business and biodiversity expert Ms. Shiranee Yasaratne, and moderated by Mr. Mohammad Rafiq, Former Head of IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme. Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, Regional Director IUCN Asia and Mr. Shabbir Anwar Kazi, Director General Technical, PQA presided over the meeting as co-chairs.

Before the official meeting, pre-roundtable meetings were held with three businesses in order to ascertain whether or not the private sector had an interest and appetite for such an initiative. The results were encouraging and indicated that companies were willing and able to address environmental problems. The roundtable meeting confirmed this observation.

Following Ms. Kabraji’s opening speech and Mr. Rafiq’s keynote address, the floor was open to questions and discussion. Many business representatives participated actively, particularly those already familiar with IUCN’s work. Importantly, the Port Qasim Authority ensured its full support for the establishment and effective operation of a Business & Biodiversity Platform, inspiring the companies under its jurisdiction to seriously consider being a part of it. Many felt that it would be helpful if IUCN could identify the key areas that would benefit from private sector involvement, particularly along the coast, where most of these companies operate.