BBOP | Jazzing Up Business' Impact On Biodiversity

The Business and Biodiversity Offset Program has left me torn: is this a genuine attempt to preserve biodiversity, or just another exercise in corporate greenwashing?

[social_buttons]The Business and Biodiversity Offset Program is a work in progress.  Its name includes that reviled word “offset”, a red flag for many deep greens.
However, unlike the dreaded carbon offset, this is not a market mechanism which allows industry to greenwash its way through normal operations.

Instead it’s a recognition that large industrial developments have a huge impact upon sensitive natural environments and can undermine the cultural lifestyle of local populations.

In order to keep this impact as light as possible the program is developing a set of mechanisms which ensure there is no net loss of biodiversity in the locale and that local communities’ lifestyles are not adversely affected or altered.

The program has just reached the end of Phase I and has released a flurry of guidance documents and case studies, including this excellent overview.

This admits BBOP’s shortcomings, including no consideration for marine ecology, no universally agreed methodology to measure outcomes, and a very narrow spectrum of industries contributing.

These shortcomings will be addresses in Phase II which aims to deliver broader, deeper and more refined guidelines and documentation by the end of 2011.

But Are Biodiversity Offsets Helpful?

In the meantime I’m left divided over whether this is a truly credible attempt to lighten Man’s heavy handed treatment of natural and human ecology.

Aspirations such as ensuring “no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity” within a project’s locale seem like a massive step forwards, as does the program’s willingness to address human ecology alongside environmental ecology.

However, I cannot help but feel uneasy when I see companies from unsustainable industries, such as Shell International and Rio Tinto, driving the project forwards.

Is such cynicism justified, or is BBOP a genuine and welcome step towards creating an ecologically sustainable society for the 21st Century?

Or is this a sterile debate and should industry first do no harm instead of continually trying to fix things after the fact?

Please let me know your thoughts below … with such a new program it will be fascinating to hear what other people think!!

Picture Credit: Buttress tree roots by sly06 from flickr under Creative Commons Attribution License.

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