As the world stands at a critical juncture in the ongoing fight against climate change, the ongoing 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emerges as a pivotal moment in shaping the shared future. From November 30 global leaders have been converging in the UAE to build upon the foundations laid by previous COPs and take further steps towards achieving the ambitious goals set forth in the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.
With universal participation of 198 parties, the UNFCCC is the cornerstone of international efforts to combat climate change. It’s clear that climate action and environmental conservation are at the forefront of the global agenda. Biodiversity, a crucial component of our planet's ecosystem, is intricately linked to these concerns.
In a compelling interview with Dr. Nidhi Pundhir, Vice President of Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at HCLFoundation, the HCLTech Trends and Insights team got the opportunity to delve into the concept of biodiversity and its relevance to organizations. Dr. Pundhir shared valuable insights into the impact of large enterprises on global biodiversity, strategies for measuring and mitigating negative activities and the role played by HCLTech in preserving and protecting biodiversity in India and beyond.
Understanding biodiversity: A glimpse into the future
Biodiversity is a celebration of nature, encompassing the myriad of life forms that grace this magnificent planet. It stands as an essential element for organizations, as it underlines our interconnectedness with nature. Dr. Pundhir emphasizes: “It is critical for us to conserve and protect various forms of biodiversity. There is nothing that exists in isolation, and organizations are no exception.”
Biodiversity offers essential ecosystem services, from providing clean air and fresh water to facilitating the pollination of crops and climate regulation. According to the Living Planet Report, since 1970, we have lost more than 70% of the life that used to exist. It's high time for collective action, for organizations, both large and small, to come together, preserve and conserve the biodiversity we are left with.
Biodiversity supports living beings by providing food, medicines and cultural and spiritual benefits. A diverse ecosystem is more resilient and better equipped to withstand environmental changes and disturbances. Many industries, from agriculture to pharmaceuticals, rely on biodiversity for their products and processes.
According to a PwC report, $58 trillion of global GDP is generated from industries such as agriculture, construction and packaged foods that are highly or moderately dependent on nature — creating a high reliance on ecosystem services. Large enterprises have a substantial impact on global biodiversity, often resulting from their operational activities, supply chains and resource consumption.
The impact may include deforestation, habitat destruction, pollution, overuse of natural resources and carbon emissions. Dr. Pundhir believes that we are indeed in a biodiversity crisis, where species extinction rates are accelerating, ecosystems are degrading, and the loss of biodiversity is threatening the planet's stability and resilience.
To build a biodiversity positive business, companies across value chain must transform their business by enhancing and refining their existing sustainability capabilities, including integrating biodiversity targets with existing governance mechanism, addressing footprint management, leveraging technologies to develop products that create less ecosystem disruption and adopt biodiversity-friendly practices.
Measuring impact and mitigation
Organizations are undertaking several steps to measure their impact on biodiversity and mitigate negative activities. Based on current net-zero commitments from more than 700 of the world’s largest companies, there have already been commitments of carbon credits of around 0.2 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 by 2030. Some private-sector companies are committing beyond carbon to biodiversity and water.
As a core component of corporate climate mitigation, natural carbon solutions (NCS) are becoming mainstream, accounting for around 40% of retired carbon credits in voluntary carbon markets. Leaders are also beginning to invest directly in nature through protecting and restoring large expanses of land and ocean.
Steps for mitigation also covers conducting biodiversity assessments, establishing measurable goals to reduce negative impacts, adopting sustainable practices, investing in biodiversity offset programs, engaging stakeholders and acquiring relevant certifications. Dr. Pundhir also emphasizes the importance of working closely with local communities and understanding their indigenous wisdom as an integral part of biodiversity preservation.
“HCLFoundation have forested acres and acres of land, planted thousands of saplings, rejuvenated water bodies and conserved billions of liters of water. We have invested in a collective action team of highly qualified professionals and public private partnership models, where we work closely with the urban and rural local bodies, understand the culture of the place, gain knowledge and the indigenous wisdom that our communities have. We can never conserve biodiversity or understand the importance of it, if we keep ourselves distanced from the local culture,” she added.
One exemplary model of HCLFoundation’s successful biodiversity conservation is the “Sorkha Urban Forest.” This area has transformed from a wasteland to a thriving ecosystem within the span of four to five years. Dr. Pundhir notes that over 50 native bird species have returned, along with an impressive resurgence of flora. This transformation was only possible through collaboration with local communities and understanding the culture of the region, highlighting the critical importance of community involvement in conservation.
HCLFoundation: Spearheading biodiversity preservation
HCLFoundation have been at the forefront of preserving and protecting biodiversity in India and beyond. Their initiative ranges from habitat restoration and water conservation to educational programs and these initiatives have been pivotal in fostering connection between urban and local communities and local bodies.
Dr. Pundhir elaborates on their initiatives: “We are guided by the philosophy and values of preserving the common air, water and soil. HCLFoundation has implemented the HCLTech Grant in India for nine years and has been doing conservation work for 10 years under the program, Harit, The Green Initiative, a distinct flagship program for Environment Action; with the vision ‘to conserve, restore and enhance indigenous environmental systems and respond to climate change in a sustainable manner through community engagement.”
HCLFoundation has also launched HCLTech Climate Action Grant in Americas providing grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) combating climate change and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity across the Americas. With a keen focus on building environmental capital, the company is playing a central role in addressing the climate crisis and conserving native biodiversity.
COP28 offers a unique opportunity for the world to come together and address the critical issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. As enterprises play a significant role in both the challenges and solutions, organizations must take proactive steps to measure and mitigate their impact on biodiversity.
HCLTech and HCLFoundation serve as inspiring examples of corporate responsibility, actively contributing to the preservation and protection of biodiversity in India and beyond. Their efforts are a testament to the role that organizations can play in addressing the global biodiversity crisis and securing a sustainable future for all.
"We must conserve, protect and save biodiversity. It's time for organizations, both big and small, to act and bring back what we can," added Dr. Pundhir.