As the world wakes up to the accelerating loss of biological diversity, businesses are increasingly viewing biodiversity conservation as a potential profit center, says a new collaborative report from one of the world's largest conservation organizations and one of the world's largest international oil, gas and chemicals companies.
Issued Thursday, the report from the IUCN-International Union for Conservation of Nature and Shell International Ltd. calls for policy reforms to increase the commercial rewards for conserving biodiversity.
One biodiversity business that is growing quickly is bioprospecting, the search for new compounds, genes and organisms in the wild. The report suggests the sector could be worth as much as US$500 million by 2050.
Titled "Building Biodiversity Business," the report says some businesses that were historically responsible for the loss of biodiversity now are starting to lead the way by protecting biodiversity.
For instance, markets for organic agriculture and sustainably-harvested timber are growing at double-digit rates.
And there is an increasing demand for climate mitigation services, such as the protection of forests and wetlands to absorb carbon dioxide, the report finds.
Ecotourism is one obvious example of how money can be made from looking after species and their habitats. Worldwide, environmentally-friendly tourism is expanding at a rate of 20 to 30 percent annually, compared with a nine percent expansion rate for tourism as a whole.
Critics of ecotourism warn that the intrusion of large numbers of people into wild habitats can adversely influence the reproductive success and survival of the affected wildlife.
A key challenge facing all biodiversity businesses is the lack of accepted indicators to measure positive and negative contributions to biodiversity conservation, the report finds.
An increasing number of companies see a business advantage in developing processes to integrate biodiversity into their operations, as well as seeking market-based solutions and opportunities.
The organization maintains the Red List of Threatened Species and helps the world find pragmatic solutions to environment and development challenges by conducting environmental diplomatic relations, supporting scientific research; and managing field projects all over the world.
This work encompasses all types of animal and plant species on the planet; all types of ecosystems - the different types of natural places that exist on Earth; and a wide range of major environmental and sustainable development issues.