Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program

As a member of the group guiding the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), WCS joins with more than 40 leading companies, governments, financial institutions, and other conservation organizations worldwide to explore and test biodiversity offsets used by on-the-ground pilot projects. Essentially, biodiversity offsets are modes of compensating the Earth for pollution, habitat destruction, and other consequences of industrial growth and development. They offer one potential mechanism to balance the impacts of development activities with the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. They also provide a way to measure conservation gains and losses against one another. As the human footprint encroaches farther onto wild places around the world, the BBOP has created a toolkit for how best to protect and nurture wildlife and their ecosystems, while also attaining livelihood benefits.

Challenges

The growth of natural resource industries can be highly taxing on the earth, clearing forests for farmlands, grasslands for ranches, and raking the ocean floor for seafood. Too often, these operations work in direct conflict with the preservation of endangered wildlife and fragile habitats. Though many developers are willing to adopt more earth-friendly practices if they are compensated for their actions, few have undertaken offsets voluntarily. However, pressure from financial institutions that make social and environmental compliance a part of their lending requirements generates more interest in using offsets to protect biodiversity. Our challenge is to develop effective protocols and standards to make this option viable.

Goals

  • Expand best practices for biodiversity offsets to new industry sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, and tourism.
  • Encourage a broader range of countries—particularly in Latin America and Asia—to participate in offsets.
  • Work with governments to develop offset policies, guidelines, incentives, or market-based instruments that can be applied at country and landscape levels.
  • Create a set of standards on the design, implementation, and sustainability of biodiversity offsets, including protocols for auditing and verification.
  • Train a group of professionals worldwide—including at least 50 organizations already skilled in environmental impact assessments—to support companies and governments in achieving biodiversity offsets.

What WCS is Doing

WCS has worked with the BBOP to create a portfolio of pilot development projects around the world that demonstrate how to balance the growth of new industry sectors—such as agriculture, forestry, and tourism—with the preservation of biodiversity. The BBOP partners help project planners working in companies, governments, conservation groups, and local communities to incorporate biodiversity offsets into their work. The program will also support related policy developments at the intergovernmental, national, and corporate levels.
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