Those who have read Dr. Suess book “The Lorax” to their children know the heartfelt message this book conveys. For those who are not familiar with this book, it chronicles the plight of the environment personified by “the Lorax”, who speaks for the trees against the industry, personified by “Once-Ler”. This fable is relevant even more today as the insatiable appetite for growth and profits tightly coupled to the consumption of natural resources poses a danger to the environment and society at large.
Says the Once-ler to the Lorax who spoke on behalf of the trees and animals who can’t speak:
And then I got mad
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!”
All you do is yap-yap and say, “Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!”
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”
Fourth edition of Treeni’s ‘Sustainability for Breakfast’ (S4B), co-hosted by Tata Motors at their Worli, Mumbai offices on 4th September, was on “Importance of Biodiversity and the role of Industry” and began with the book reading of “The Lorax”.
Ecosystem and biodiversity loss is linked closely to climate change. The close linkage is symbiotic as Biodiversity loss hastens climate change, and climate change impacts biodiversity loss. Arvind Bodhankar, Corporate Head- Health Safety Environment & Sustainability, Tata Motors, said, “Biodiversity management has become an imperative today, if we have to mitigate the impact of climate change and keep the global temperature rise below 2deg C, large business houses will have to play a major role and support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector. ”
The key learnings from this engaging S4B event was:
Is biodiversity a material issue for my enterprise?
- If you are a company with large landholdings especially in climate vulnerable areas – biodiversity is a material issue from the sustenance of your operations.
- If your company with requires resources drawn directly from flora and fauna such as food, cosmetics and pharma sectors biodiversity is core your supply chain vulnerability.
- If your company’s operations have direct impact on air, noise, soil, water and are operate in the vicinity of sensitive sites such as national parks, protected areas and biodiversity hotspots then it is a material issue for you.
Beyond boundary for biodiversity conservation
TCS has demonstrated that though their operations do not have a direct negative impact on biodiversity, they can contribute positively to biodiversity through creation of oasis in amidst urban chaos. The incredible work of TCS in protecting the olive ridley turtles showcases how biodiversity project can lead to deeper employee engagement and societal job creation. The value of such work goes much beyond the boundary of the organisation and stands out like a beacon in an ocean.
Natural ecosystem service
The foresight of Sumant Moolgaonkar created an oasis at Tata Motors Pune, which was a scrubby baren land and is now a haven of greenery, a natural wetland habitat of 245 acres amidst rapidly expanding Pune. It attracts 150 species of birds and 60 types of butterflies. The habitat was planned at the same time as the manufacturing facility. A dam was constructed to conserve rainwater ensuring year-round water availability for Tata Motors and sustains the green cover. This oasis also acts as a natural oxygen generator and safe haven for migratory birds. This provides two vital ecosystem services of clean air and sustained water availability. Conservation efforts by the Tata’s are exemplary and here is a link to a list of initiatives by various Tata companies.
Godrej owns the mangrove forest spread across several hundred acres in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai. The three vital ecosystem services provided by the mangroves are carbon sequestration, clean air, and protecting the coastline from inundation.
How can biodiversity preservation become a part of our culture again?
Indian customs have traditionally worshipped nature, and living in harmony has been a part of Indian tradition. However lately widespread disregard for nature by young and old alike due to use of disposable plastics, use of POP idols in festivals, noise pollution, thoughtless killing of snakes in townships & farms, fertilizers & human sewage in water bodies and garbage burning etc., have led to air, noise, and water pollution. The role of the citizen and how we can rally for our green spaces, rivers and water bodies, has the potential for transforming our lives and urban and rural spaces. The need of the hour is cultural transformation where we are back in touch with nature. Lately corporate landholdings and green spaces have been opened up for nature walks, like Godrej has with the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre. Active citizenry also means establishment of a new breed of citizen scientists who can contribute to efforts of ecologists in terms of bird/animal spotting in various localities. Understanding how human affluence and greed impacts biodiversity and inculcating a culture of protecting our natural habitat is crucial. One great example of how such a culture of protecting biodiversity in saving the whale sharks along the coast of Gujrat is documented in this wonderful movie called the Shores of Silence.
How can Technology be leveraged to enable biodiversity efforts?
Technology is all pervasive, increasingly Geographical Information Systems(GIS) and drones are being used in context of biodiversity. GIS applications allow mapped data collection, scenario creation and predictions, understanding impact in geospatial context affecting landcover, forests, and human habitats.
Businesses today have several free GIS repositories at their disposal.
- One such free resource is the Atlas of Global Conservation by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). It is an excellent resource for understanding biological diversity, scientists have divided up the world into more than 1,000 ecoregions and analysed how they compare across dozens of measures. TNC’s atlas offers dozens and dozens of layers of geographic information by terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregion. Dozens of biodiversity metrics can be viewed in this atlas
- Another free resource is Global Forest Watch. This WRI initiative uses the most advanced satellite data and crowd-sourced information to track deforestation throughout the world in near-real-time. Global Forest Watch offers the latest data, technology and tools that empower people everywhere to better protect forests.
- The India Biodiversity portal has a unique repository of information on India’s biodiversity. The portal aims to provide open and free access to biodiversity information, and enables widespread participation by all citizens in contributing to and accessing information on Indian biodiversity.
Drones are emerging as a valuable tool for biodiversity conservation. These unmanned vehicles can help monitor protected areas, collect data in inaccessible regions, and even deter poachers and plant trees. In a unique initiative in Burma drones were used for planting mangrove, first drones flying 100 metres (328 ft) above the ground take highly detailed, 3D images of the land while sensors record information such as soil type, soil quality and moisture. The data is then used to create a planting pattern, pinpointing the best spots and species to plant in each location. Then a drone uploaded with the mapping information flies 2 metres above the ground, shooting biodegradable seed pods designed to enhance germination success. A drone carrying 300 seed pods can cover 1 hectare in 18 minutes
Ankush Patel, the Co-founder & CEO of Treeni said “The use of technology to track and monitor industry’s impact on bio diversity has enabled a process for the industry to ensure that a focus on biodiversity is a part of their business operations.”
Sustainability performance management and collaboration platforms which enable enterprises to track their biodiversity indicators, and share best practices within and outside the enterprise, are increasingly used by companies. In context of sharing platforms, it’s worth mentioning about India Business Biodiversity Initiative, which is a business-led initiative that serves as a national platform for business, to promote sharing and learning, and will ultimately lead to mainstreaming sustainable management of biological diversity by business. IBBI was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, and is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
The key message from this edition of the S4B on biodiversity is same as the message from the book, The Lorax, that “Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” In this book “You’ signifies the new generation, but it is clear the going forward industries are the ones that will have a care a whole awful lot…and I was glad to see the exemplary work done by Tata Motors, Godrej, Mahindra Susten, Tata Power and TCS.