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Shared value, conservation and development
by Richard Welford  rwelford@csr-asia.com
18 May 2016

CSR Asia in partnership with Conservation International are pleased to announce the publication of a new report on "Creating Shared Value Through Integrated Conservation and Development Projects". It highlights new business opportunities that can be created through conservation initiatives that combine the protection of nature with the improvement of people's livelihoods.

The report emphasises that businesses make a significant impact on the environment and on the development of rural communities through their direct operations or through their value chains. Their activities have been at the heart of much of the damage being done to the environment. But, many businesses are now realising that they need to be part of the attempts to stop ecosystems loss and degradation. Without strategic action, the overexploitation of the environment and the underdevelopment of rural communities will lead to even more costly consequences. In short, unchecked degradation of the environment and local development puts business under threat.

This report emphasises that it is possible for businesses to develop conservation projects that help in the development of local communities and increase the efficiencies and competitiveness of their operations. This shared value approach emphases that value can be created for:

  • Conservation through innovative environmental initiatives that protect or enhance the health of natural ecosystems such as forests, lakes, rivers and seas;
  • Development through income generation opportunities and the development of small business opportunities linked to the protection of nature; and,
  • Businesses through the creation of profitable commercial opportunities that contribute to economic development.

Based on eight case studies of successful initiatives in the Asia Pacific region, the report demonstrates how businesses can create shared value for conservation, development and themselves in three ways:

  • Creating and diversifying markets through the development or redesign of sustainable or ethical products.
  • Improving value chain efficiency whilst expanding inclusive business opportunities.
  • Restructuring the economies of rural areas by cultivating initiatives that focus on protecting and developing new business opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity.

The report examines the business case for creating innovative conservation and development initiatives and looks at how this can be done through three different approaches:

  • Building sustainable industries
  • Creating economic opportunities to help secure protected areas
  • Financing conservation through payment for ecosystem services (PES)

The report demonstrates that there are a range of business opportunities that can create shared value through strategic partnerships. These include partnerships with conservation and development organisations, governments and local communities. For example, working directly in partnership with farmers and fishers to improve productivity and quality creates incomes for poorer people and simultaneously makes value chains more efficient and resilient. The report points to the role of the private sector in developing new commercial enterprises that can exist in a competitive marketplace whilst delivering conservation and development benefits.

The eight case studies in the report highlight different ways of creating shared value for conservation, development and the private sector. They highlight the direct benefits to new and existing businesses engaged in integrated conservation and development projects through increased competitiveness, efficiencies and profits.

For example, the cases of Starbucks, Mangroves and Markets (MAM) and the Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP) demonstrate how business has the opportunity to develop or improve products that can contribute to growth, profitability and long-term sustainability of their value chains while minimising negative impacts on the environment and communities. In particular, we have seen that it is possible to create "premium" products as well as opportunities for increased profits through improved methods of production.

Starbuck’s C.A.F.E. Practices developed their own approach to ethical sourcing by establishing guidelines for quality, economic accountability, social responsibility and environmental leadership. Leveraging the certification and transparency of their coffee in this way has helped drive forward their commitment to sourcing 100% of their coffee from responsible sources and creating a high quality product for a higher price. Starbucks' integrated techniques aim to enhance land and forest management to combat climate change and reduce the soil erosion and water runoff whilst improving crop productivity.

The work of MAMs increased the value of shrimp production and boosted the incomes of its suppliers by paying certified small scale farmers for organic shrimp stocks. The project demonstrated that it is possible to re-establish critical mangrove forests and support local farmers in producing shrimp. MAM has been able to support stakeholders in creating a strategic vision for their region, scaling up their project in Ca Mau with the intention of replicating this elsewhere.

The SLP created opportunities for the public and private sector to work together on spatial planning and in guiding the development of sustainable and low carbon enterprises, conserving high natural value areas and spurring private sector investment in sustainable agriculture. It focuses on leveraging inclusive business approaches to drive local economic development and promote investment in low carbon enterprises. Bringing together stakeholders from local communities to enable larger scale, collective impacts, it demonstrates that focusing on emerging market opportunities can drive economic development and support farmers and businesses with long-term sustainable production.

Generating incomes through new business opportunities is also apparent in many of the cases highlighted in the report. For example, with the development of community based eco-tourism enterprises, remote communities with conservation value are beginning to benefit from the expansion of tourism markets. Tourism provides a financially viable solution for rural communities to conserve natural resources while benefiting from its natural value through the income and service generation. The report highlights the Vuen Sai Gibbon Spotting project in Cambodia, which has been able to protect rare gibbons from poaching and loss of habitat due to deforestation in the region, for example.

Businesses also have the potential to create and improve existing market instruments that reward communities in their efforts to improve the environmental integrity of an area. The Rewarding the Upland Poor for Environmental Services Project (RUPES) outlined in the report identified that insecure land tenure rights were hindering local development and that high rates of erosion were contributing to costly damage of an important hydroelectric resource for the region. The RUPES initiative created a payment for ecosystem services scheme to reward farmers for implementing water and soil management techniques upstream. The cost reductions associated with decreasing levels of sediment in the reservoirs meant less maintenance costs and improved hydroelectric efficiency saving US$1 million. The farmers benefited from the increased incomes they gained from sustainable farming methods and direct payments for their ecosystem services.

The cases demonstrate that there are significant business opportunities in engaging with conservation and development that remain untapped. The private sector has the potential to develop new products and services, reduce costs, improve the efficiency of value chains, develop inclusive business models and create clusters of local economic development. Such approaches will improve the competitiveness of companies and add to long term profitability.

You can find the full report at: http://goo.gl/7r28JW


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