Thursday, July 11, 2024

Sustainable supply Chains; Ensuring biodiversity conservation.


Biodiversity is the wide range of life forms you will find in one area; the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up the natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in the ecosystems like an intricate web, to support life through providing ecosystem services such as food, clean water, shelter, and medicine to people and society.  

Ecosystems are gradually being viewed as part of our natural capital which is the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources such as plants, water, soils, and minerals that combine to provide ecosystem services. These services provide the basis for functioning economies. When we lose species through extinction, the web of life is destroyed, in turn affecting the resilience of the ecosystems and nature’s capacity to provide natural capital.  As businesses, we have a responsibility to consider the impact of our supply chain activities on the ecosystem.  

Companies have considerable influence over the players in their Upstream supply chains to ensure that their impacts on biodiversity are minimized. Supply chain mapping is critical to achieving this. In-house knowledge of the raw materials used, their origin and source of supply is sometimes insufficient, particularly in the case of semi-finished products transiting through ports where traceability is particularly challenging. To solve this, the creation of a traceability platform dedicated to suppliers is essential. Nestle for instance joined the Achilles supply chain mapping program where all the companies’ primary suppliers are added on the Achilles platform and issued with product identification codes. The suppliers provide regulatory and traceability information on the products. Based on the information provided automatically, a due diligence module estimates and scores the potential risk of each product. If the total level of risk score exceeds a specific score, the supplier receives a mitigation request. This reinforces Nestles’ commitment to achieving deforestation-free status for their coffee and cocoa supply chains by 2025. 


After mapping out the suppliers, it is essential to engage them to understand their own biodiversity impacts and mitigation efforts. Companies could also collaborate with suppliers to reduce over-exploitation of resources through product redesign. This ensures the long-term availability of resources at an affordable price. Further, regular supplier audits will help ensure that suppliers are aligned with the firm’s biodiversity goals and identify the risks that each pose. This informs the company’s decision to terminate relations with suppliers who care less about biodiversity conservation, which could lead to legal action and a negative reputation.   


With an in-depth view of the company’s supply chain at hand, evaluate the current purchasing standards and monitoring mechanisms to identify gaps. Fortunately, sustainability consultants can help companies address these gaps successfully by conducting supply chain risk assessments, developing policies, and modifying purchasing standards to cover those risks, as well as updating the supplier code of conduct and monitoring mechanisms. They can also devise strategies to hold suppliers accountable and ensure the standards are effectively implemented. 

Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable and environmentally friendly products. As a result, it is vital for companies to be transparent about their efforts to reduce biodiversity impacts in the supply chain and publish progress reports to inform stakeholders and customers. The reports can also assist businesses in securing green funding, which can accelerate their transition to green technology that has lower operating expenses.  

Companies should act on freight to decrease their impact on biodiversity in the downstream supply chain. To reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation, businesses should improve their logistics planning. They should also enhance their reverse logistics processes to ensure that materials and products are returned to the company for refurbishment or recycling at the end of their life cycles, hence reducing raw material extraction.  

Biodiversity conservation across the supply chain necessitates partnerships with bodies ranging from government to trade unions. As a reference, Congolaise Industrielle de Bois (CIB), Olam Groups’ wood subsidiary, partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Ministry of Forest Economy in 2021 to protect wildlife around Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in northern Congo by establishing an anti-poaching unit. Protecting wildlife serves an essential role in maintaining the health of tropical rainforests, where up to 90 per cent of the plant species are dependent on animals for their pollination or dispersal, including timber species that are (CIBs) source of raw materials. Through the partnership 150 arrests have been made in relation to trafficking. 

Reducing biodiversity impacts in the supply chain is an ongoing process that requires commitment, collaboration, and adaptation. By taking these steps, companies can make a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation while also building their reputation in an increasingly eco-conscious market. 


Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungai
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via

Read more

Related News