A biodiversity benchmark

The loss of biological diversity is a key environmental issue, both nationally and internationally, and companies and institutions are being interrogated ever more frequently by society about the biodiversity impact of their operations. For businesses as well as government agencies, the challenge is to find a suitable and broadly accepted methodology for quantifying that impact. Many companies, particularly those in the food sector and primary industries, have an impact on biodiversity, but in many cases that impact does not occur where the products are ultimately  consumed. 

The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&E) is keen to encourage companies to provide greater transparency with regard to their biodiversity impact. The Ministry also wants to move towards a widely accepted reporting system for quantifying that impact, providing companies with a practical and easy-to-use tool for steering efforts to reduce the biodiversity impact of their corporate activities.

This ‘Biodiversity benchmark’ project, conducted for I&E by CE Delft in collaboration with Conservation Consultancy Steven de Bie, explores existing methodologies for quantifying biodiversity. It is concluded that the ReCiPe biodiversity indicator, augmented with Pfister’s ‘water stress methodology’, is currently the most suitable method for measuring and possibly benchmarking the biodiversity impacts of individual companies. In the present study the ReCiPe methodology was applied in a sectoral analysis to obtain a  picture of the biodiversity impact of the overall Dutch economy and the contribution of individual sectors. The analysis also covered raw material imports. The ReCiPe method was also applied to the production processes of several companies. In addition, the biodiversity impact of the Dutch government apparatus was analysed, including procurement. An important conclusion is that it is not only climate change that is a key driver of the biodiversity loss resulting from Dutch industrial activities, but also land use. While there are already numerous policies in place to address climate change, this is not the case for land use. 

The project was supervised by a broad-based Supervisory Committee and an Advisory Group comprising representatives of Dutch industry. With the companies’ consent, the operations of three companies were analysed using the ReCiPe methodology: Dow Terneuzen, Tata Steel IJmuiden and Unilever Benelux. This demonstrated that with the collaboration of process operators and access to in-house operational data it is well feasible to quantify biodiversity impacts with the chosen methodology.