Romie Goedicke is Senior Expert Green Economy at the IUCN Netherlands Committee (IUCN NL), a SUSTAIN Initiative project partner.

All over the world, businesses make use of natural capital. Companies benefit from healthy ecosystems. But how can nature conservation organizations engage companies to contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem services? That question was central to the international business engagement training held in Uganda last month.

Businesses rely on natural resources for their production processes and depend on healthy ecosystems to remove waste, and maintain soil, water and air quality. At the same time, businesses can have major negative impacts on biodiversity. While business is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution. During a two-day capacity development training guided by IUCN NL and the IUCN Global Business & Biodiversity Programme, a group of conservationists from Uganda and Tanzania worked towards an action plan to engage businesses operating in their landscapes to secure international public goods.  

Roadmap to business engagement

“I was afraid business engagement wouldn’t be feasible for us,” participant Evelyne Busingye of IUCN Uganda Country Office says. “But the experience of the partners has taught me we can do this as well. Business engagement is easy to handle if you follow the right process.” During the training, participants followed a clear roadmap to elaborate an action plan tailored to their organization’s strategy, experience and objectives. “The first step is for organizations to identify their own strengths,” Romie Goedicke explains. “The business engagement strategy should follow from what the organization is best at, whether that is research, dialogue or campaigning.” 

Second, the participants analyze the type of companies that operate in the landscape they intend to protect. "Either directly or indirectly, everywhere in the world companies make use of natural capital," says Goedicke. "By mapping the impacts and dependencies of these companies on natural capital and which risks and opportunities this entails, nature organizations can respond to the interests of the company in question." As participant Diana Nabiruma of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) concludes: "If you are able to demonstrate how ecosystem degradation can negatively impact a certain business, it becomes easier to ally with them to make their operations more sustainable."

Reducing water pollution from artisinal mining

The training resulted in tangible action plans, which were presented on the second day. The action plan of Joseph Chiombola from the Tanzanian Land Rights Research & Resources Institute, Hakiardhi, stood out: reducing water pollution by promoting adhesion of artisanal gold miners to cooperatives. “The plan offers benefits to artisanal gold miners, nature conservationists and the government alike,” Joseph Lumumba, Senior Expert Green Economy at IUCN NL, explains. “By adhering to a cooperative, artisanal gold miners receive a series of benefits, such as recognition, access to funding and capacity development to improve their extraction techniques and use less mercury. This will lead to higher yields, while at the same time reducing the risk of polluting the water these miners depend upon for their production. The government benefits from easier law enforcement and tax income, while nature and local populations benefit from clean water.”

Demand-driven trajectory

The training formed the kick-off of a capacity development trajectory for effective business engagement developed by IUCN NL and the IUCN Global Business & Biodiversity Programme in the framework of the ‘Shared Resources, Joint Solutions’ and SUSTAIN Initiative programmes. The trajectory builds on South-South peer learning and consists of specific demand-driven clinics, webinars and workshops on topics such as analysis of financial flows, negotiation skills, and valuation of ecosystems. A similar trajectory will be offered to partner organizations in West-Africa as well.

Originally published on IUCN NL website 7 July 2017

Photo: Romie Goedicke presenting at Business Engagement Training, Uganda ©IUCN/Nadine McCormick