CORPORATE & STRATEGY
Biodiversity means life
Extinction of species, genetic erosion of crops and loss of natural habitats – biodiversity is threatened on many levels. Along with 21 other companies, Symrise is taking a stand against this threat through the One Planet Business for Biodiversity initiative.
As far as the state of nature is concerned, there are more than a few rays of hope shining, for instance in Germany: In The number of birds in forested areas and towns is increasing, and some rivers and meadows are again offering a livable habitat for animals thanks to rewilding. However, that was almost the only positive news in the most recent “Report on the State of Nature” from the German Federal Environment Ministry. According to its assessment, more than two-thirds of all natural habitats in Germany are in inadequate to poor condition. The same applies to 60 percent of species, including mainly insects, butterflies, dragonflies and beetles. In neighboring France, there are about 1,240 species under threat of extinction according to the local Department of the Environment; in the USA that number exceeds 2,000. Bird populations across the European Union have decreased by 30 percent in the last 30 years. The number of butterflies fell by 40 percent. In the rainforests of Southeast Asia and the Amazon, large-scale deforestation threatens the habitats of tens of thousands of species. Biodiversity therefore continues to be lost on a massive scale. We are talking about a global mass extinction. THREATENING DECLINE In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a scientific committee formed by 132 countries, came to the conclusion that about a million species – plants and animals – around the world could disappear from the face of the earth. Intensive agricultural activity is considered to lead to the degradation or destruction of ecosystems, the extinction of species and the degeneration of genetic pools. This global biodiversity crisis can manifest itself in many ways. For example, the lack of genetic diversity could increase susceptibility to diseases and pest infestation. Cavendish bananas, which make up almost the entire global market for dessert bananas, are an example of this. In many plantations, this variety is threatened by a fungus that can spread easily in monocultures. “The decline of biodiversity endangers humanity’s food supply. Furthermore, it deprives us of many environmental benefits that nature provides, from the supply of natural raw materials and the regulation of climate, water and material cycles to cultural benefits that are also important for our company – specifically, nature as a source of inspiration,” says Sascha Liese, Sustainability Manager at Symrise. According to him, in order to ensure food production as well as the quality and taste of products, a company like Symrise is ultimately dependent on biodiversity and intact ecosystems. Many corporations that use raw materials from nature have realized that by now.
THREE BASIC PRINCIPLES “The topic is pushing its way into the agenda,” observes Liese. Because of this, 21 global players, mostly from the food and cosmetics industries, joined forces in September of last year in the OP2B (One Planet Business for Biodiversity) initiative. The goal is to protect, sustainably use and restore biodiversity. To achieve this, they want to align supply chains and product portfolios with this goal. The initiative abides by three basic principles – regenerative agriculture, diversified product portfolios based on genetic diversity as well as the restoration of intact agricultural ecosystems and the protection of forests. “The goal is to grow high-grade food on healthy soil,” says Liese. “It is about growing resistant plant varieties rich in nutrients, harnessing the economic value of the natural environment and, last but not least, increasing the value of innovative potential, for example, through the rediscovery of older or local varieties.” Symrise wants to bring the entire diversity of crop plants into its products and to preserve the genetic pools of its strategic raw materials. At Symrise, there are many connecting factors to OP2B. Since 2015, the company has had an agenda for biodiversity, which requires all its divisions to minimize the negative effect that their activities have on biodiversity, or even better – to promote biodiversity. Similarly, Symrise has publicly committed to implementing the goals set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Participating in OP2B is therefore a logical step. The companies involved are currently developing systematic solutions to promote biodiversity along their supply chains. A combination of successful projects should provide an example for this. Symrise is on this list with its vanilla cultivation project in Madagascar. The company works together with 7,000 small farmers there to promote regenerative agriculture, which strengthens diversity and protects ecosystems. A further connection is that Symrise is a member of the Union for Ethical Biotrade, a non-governmental organization that sets high standards for the sustainability of supply chains and fair trade relationships. All these activities are managed by the Corporate Sustainability Board. “Sustainability and biodiversity only work with a cross-divisional approach,” says Liese. The divisions have created sets of strategically-relevant agricultural raw materials. The plan is to sustainably produce and process these agricultural raw materials by 2025. “We undertook this journey,” says Liese, “and we have a long way to go.” And there is no other road to take. After all, “Biological diversity is not only humanity’s life insurance, but also the natural capital of our industry, which needs to be preserved in the long term.”