Biodiversity underpins life on Earth. However, meeting the rapidly growing demand for resources to cover human needs has resulted in substantial loss of the diversity of life on the planet.
Biodiversity provides goods and ecosystem services which are essential to meet our demands and which include, among others, the provision of food, fibre and medicine, soil formation, air quality and climate regulation, the regulation of water supply and quality, and cultural and aesthetic values. For millennia, mankind’s use of biodiversity and ecosystem services has contributed to human well-being. For this reason, a sustainable future cannot be achieved if biodiversity is not conserved and made an integral part of development efforts.
Today global environmental, social and economic challenges are mounting and within the next forty years we will need to have found effective and urgent solutions to ensure that around 9 billion people will live well, and within the limits of the planet.
Governments alone cannot address these challenges; collaboration between businesses, governments, research institutions, civil society and local communities is essential in order to identify solutions for a sustainable future. This group of actors make-up RESP’s key stakeholders.
Important advancements in recent decades have resulted in efficient, cleaner and safer production processes, less waste and pollution and a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable behaviour. But supply-chain management, production efficiencies and technological innovation are not sufficient to address the current challenges. Changes to unsustainable consumption patterns and individual lifestyles are required.
Market-driven initiatives that create positive economic incentives for the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources, including biodiversity and ecosystem services, offer an enormous opportunity to achieve sustainable development. These initiatives have the potential to translate into sound business models with long-term development outcomes that foster innovative thinking and promote global sustainable production and consumption patterns.
To date, most existing initiatives have emphasised the biological determinants of sustainability and supply-side capacities. But focusing on only these elements is not enough. Non-economic arguments for, and approaches to biodiversity conservation have shown themselves to be insufficient in the face of rapid economic change. The success or failure of most initiatives will depend on a combination of economic, social and cultural factors.
A more proactive approach to biodiversity loss is thus needed. This will require much closer attention to the status and trends of natural capital from all points in the value chains, which will need to be translated into increased investment in ecosystem conservation and restoration expanding the reach of markets through economic incentives that encourage resource-efficient production and consumption and through payment for ecosystem services.
In addition, many of the existing tools and methodologies have key data gaps and inconsistencies in addressing biodiversity and ecosystem services issues. A better understanding of the environmental and social consequences at all phases of the product life-cycle is thus critical.