Biodiversity provides humanity and our economies with the resources to thrive. However, the planet is experiencing a great loss of biodiversity due to overfishing, deforestation and pollution. Humans and our planet’s ecosystem are inextricably linked and as our planet warms, the threat to ecosystems is a threat to us. It is crucial for companies to make progress in protecting biodiversity.
In April, Bloomberg reported that “a third of endemic species on land and half in the sea will disappear if greenhouse gas emissions are not contained”, and WWF Living Planet Index 2020, which measures the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles, has found a 68% decline in animal biodiversity since 1970.
But companies and investors struggle to understand, articulate and quantify the positive impacts of biodiversity on their businesses, making it difficult to take action against biodiversity loss. The United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15), which is expected to take place later this year, will be an important time for companies to articulate their efforts in developing comprehensive action plans and taking steps to better manage the environment.
As a global water-dependent beverage company, protecting the healthy environment of the biodiversity that nourishes water has been at the center of Suntory’s work over the past decades. The company has strived to preserve the resources that allow our business to thrive. For businesses unsure of where to start their biodiversity events, here are some tips based on our experience in conserving forests and water, managing bird habitat, and communicating our efforts in this area. biodiversity.
Focus your biodiversity efforts on where your business operates
Biodiversity affects every business at some level. To have a lasting and authentic impact, act in the geographical areas in which you operate, and in an area closely linked to your activity. In our case, water is an indisputable aspect of our activity. In order to maintain sustainable, healthy and clean groundwater, biodiversity is crucial.
As early as 1973, we started to work on biodiversity. We realized that we could estimate the health of the overall environment using birds, because they are an indicator of biodiversity. Their conservation is therefore a crucial element of ecological well-being and a useful tool for Suntory.
It was at a time when Japan was experiencing strong economic growth and the environment was neglected. To help protect important endangered bird species, we have established a wild bird sanctuary at our own Suntory Hakushu Distillery in Japan, which is surrounded by rich forests and many clear streams and serves as a migration staging point for wild birds. Together with external experts, we periodically conduct bird research and preserve the forest to maintain bird habitat, including hanging nesting boxes with the local community. We then expanded our bird conservation activity by establishing the Suntory Fund for Bird Conservation in 1989 to directly support organizations protecting birds in Japan and abroad. In 2020, the Fund awarded a total of $ 4.87 million to 425 projects.
Short-term goals are valuable, but make sure your goals reflect the time needed to impact ecological health, which is measured in decades, not years.
The health of groundwater, both in quality and quantity, is also greatly affected by vegetation. Our commitment to the environment therefore extended to forest management in 2003 with the creation of natural water sanctuaries, aimed at nourishing quality groundwater around our production sites in Japan. Suntory’s Natural Water Sanctuaries support water sustainability, the lifeline of our business. In partnership with various experts and local municipalities, we establish and manage the sanctuaries from which we draw our water to improve the function of forests for recharging water resources. Today, the program has expanded to 21 sites near our production sites with a total of nearly 30,000 acres of forest land nationwide, supplying double the amount of groundwater we have. use in our factories in Japan.
Make long-term commitments to ensure real impact
Protecting biodiversity can be complex and difficult, and it takes a long time. To truly bring about meaningful change in an environment, long-term commitments and a shared vision for the future are needed. Short-term goals are valuable, but make sure your goals reflect the time needed to impact ecological health, which is measured in decades, not years.
The ultimate goal of natural aquatic sanctuaries is to promote soil structure that will allow the cultivation of quality groundwater in a sustainable manner. To do this, a healthy and rich ecosystem is imperative and requires long-term commitment and investment. To ensure success, Suntory looks 50 to 100 years into the future and therefore has medium and long-term agreements – some even lasting up to 100 years – with local governments and forest owners to maintain the forests nearby. our production sites.
Collaborate with various experts and stakeholders and adopt a scientific approach
Because biodiversity is the result of so many intertwined factors, companies must seek out partners and external experts to achieve their goals. For our water cultivation efforts, we have collaborated with over 40 experts from a wide variety of fields to conduct scientific surveys and research that have thoroughly and accurately explained the unique characteristics and problems of each location. . The results were a unique, scientifically based forest maintenance plan for each site.
Based on plans tailored to each area, Suntory works with local governments and experts to manage forests and increase tree diversity, thereby improving soil quality. Strong microbial activity in the soil leads to greater rainfall filtration and better purification functions. Strong root networks also help prevent erosion. Together, this increases the quality and quantity of the water we use in our products and operations.
As wild birds are considered as a barometer of the environment, we also conduct surveys on wild birds every year by specialists in natural aquatic sanctuaries to understand qualitatively and quantitatively the real changes in the ecosystem.
Businesses are an essential partner in the protection of biodiversity. They must be actively involved in current and future efforts to ensure that we do not lose a third of our unique species. To do this, we must begin by understanding that the health of businesses is closely linked to the health of the global ecosystem.