Webinar: Biodiversity and your business

Held on Feb 13, 2020 over 60 entrepreneurs joined for a conversation featuring ways to ensure your company is doing its best to respect and promote biodiversity. Three experts shared techniques to incorporate biodiversity into business operations, consider biodiversity when planning land use change associated with expanding your business’s footprint, and collect and report on biodiversity impact figures to your customers and investors.

You can watch the replay of the webinar at this link (has print transcripts) or at the YouTube video below, and access the presentations here.

The webinar starts with David Meyers, the Executive Director of the Conservation Finance Alliance, discussing the power of eco-friendly branding to create demand for products with a very transparent and inspiring value chain. He also introduced the idea of the green climate fund and how it can support business endeavors in developing countries.

Willemijn De Iongh, a manager at Commonland, shares the financial and environmental benefits of the 550,000 hectare project in South Africa that focuses on environmentally-friendly lavender production on areas that had been degradted by goats overgrazing, as well as the second location which focuses on honeybush tea production, focused on removing invasive species, sustainable harvesting of naturally occuring honeybush in the forests, and increased plantations of honey bush.

Joel Houdet, principal at Biodiversity Protocol, introduces the concept of mainstreaming biodiversity in businesses, describing that in most regions of the world biodiversity is at an early stage in the minds of most consumers, business owners and policy makers. This highlights the importance of the work that all land restoration entrepreneurs are doing to change culture. Next he leads us through a series of questions that a business founder can do on her/his own or with their team to really uncover their business’s strategy and motivation for supporting biodiversity. He then goes over the farm-level and landscape-level interventions — changes that people can make to support biodiversity.

Watch the webinar and you may gather many insights. One main takeaway is that there are many routes towards supporting biodiversity, and as entrepreneurs are trying to crack the code for creating a financially and environmentally sustainable business, each project around the globe will have a unique approach to building diversity. Find your approach, and test it in the market and with the world.

Speakers Bios

David Meyers is an environmental finance expert and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in sustainability, business strategy and management, environmental economics, international conservation and development, environmental impact assessment, training, education and research in ecology and evolution. David has launched and managed various companies including a financial services company providing online marketplaces for impact investing and environmental assets, a triple-bottom-line bamboo-flooring manufacturer in Madagascar, and a technology incubator. David has spent well over a decade in Madagascar and has worked in 46 countries. In Madagascar, he helped the country plan and execute a tripling of the area under conservation, including establishing the Makira Natural Park 370,000 hectare protected area using REDD+ financing. He holds a Doctorate in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy from Duke University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. 

Joël Houdet is an expert on business and biodiversity, as well as on natural capital measurement, valuation, accounting and reporting. As an independent consultant and Senior Research Fellowship at the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership (University of Pretoria), he undertakes research, capacity building, policy analysis and advisory work in the governance and management of world’s natural capital, biodiversity and ecosystem services. He currently leads the Biodiversity Disclosure Project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust / National Biodiversity and Business Network, including the drafting of a Biological Diversity Protocol. 
Joël Houdet managed Integrated Sustainability Services (ISS) from 2011 to 2018, a consulting firm based in Johannesburg (South Africa), which offers integrated sustainability advisory, reporting and applied research services for firms facing strategic challenges.  Joël earned his PhD by focusing on integrating biodiversity into business strategies.  

Willemijn de Iongh, Commonland  
Willemijn de Iongh is a Cultural Anthropologist by origin focusing mainly on sustainable land use, land and fishing rights, monitoring and evaluation and knowledge exchange. She has worked at Oxfam Novib to advocate with large businesses, investors, governments, and (local) NGOs for a more sustainable food system and promote alternative business models (e.g. Fair Finance Guide and Behind the Brands campaign). She currently works at Commonland, an organization specialized in supporting landscape teams and businesses set up and implement 20-year landscape restoration plans, with 3 zones and delivering 4 returns: inspiration, social capital, natural capital and financial capital. At Commonland, Willemijn connects knowledge exchange and monitoring within Commonland’s Foundation, landscape teams and businesses. She is also creating a growing network around business-driven landscape restoration through the 4 returns returns learning platform.