Biodiversity Loss

Sarah Simon

9 min Read Time | August 10th 2021

Key Takeaways


Ecological devastation from companies' activities and products can have severe consequences on biodiversity.


When assessing the impact of such devastation, make sure to focus on environmental impacts by contextualising and using quantifiable information.


Make sure to analyse the depth, breadth, and persistence of the impact. Make sure the readers can clearly identify the scale by providing the amount of biodiversity loss.

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What it is?

Biodiversity broadly refers to the variety of life on Earth, including all living things; plants, animals, microorganisms, ecosystems, etc. Biodiversity offers many natural services upon which all life depends, such as protecting water resources, soil formation, nutrient storage and recycling, recovery from unpredictable events, food, and future resources, among others.

Life on Earth is interdependent and requires balanced ecosystems to survive and thrive. However, the world has lost 52% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, and consequently, ecosystems have become unbalanced. There are various ways biodiversity is increasingly threatened: climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive species, deforestation, and desertification.

Environmental devastation of this kind is largely driven by human activities such as commodity sourcing and other extractive activities. Many activities from different industries cause biodiversity loss.

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Impact assessment

Companies can have either an indirect or direct impact on the environment and biodiversity.

A company may directly impact biodiversity if it is involved in commodity sourcing or extractive industries. NGOs and other organisations sometimes report and assess the impact a company has on biodiversity loss. Using these reports will show the direct impact. To help readers assess the impact scale and value, you should contextualise the impact.

  • The introduction should discuss how the industry impacts biodiversity in the relevant region using quantitative and qualitative information. What is the current state of biodiversity in the region? What is the impact of losing this biodiversity?

  • The core analysis should document, quantify and describe the direct impact the company has in the region.

A company may have an indirect impact on biodiversity through its investments, loans, or sourcing. To help readers assess the impact scale and value, you should contextualise the impact and establish a concrete connection

  • The introduction should disclose the impact the industry has on biodiversity using qualitative and quantitative data.

  • When the direct impact on biodiversity loss of the company is not disclosed, you can use external studies to link by proxy.

  • Document the indirect impact by disclosing the amount of money loaned to or commodity sourced from an organization responsible for a significant amount of biodiversity loss

  • Remember, the indirect impact should be significant, or it runs this risk of being anecdotal and irrelevant.

Provide enough information so that readers can accurately rate the scale of impact:

1/ The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many species or people are concerned?

2/ The depth of the impact

  • Is the biodiversity or people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

3/ The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

Find more about evaluating the scale of the impact in Step 5: Assess scale and value.

Additional Information specific to Extractives & Minerals Processing

Oil & Gas - Exploration & Production

The exploration and production (E&P) industry’s activities can have significant impacts on biodiversity. Oil spills and leaks are a threat to species and habitats impacted by hydrocarbon contamination.

Oil and gas exploration and development activities, and associated services and support activities, can have significant impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly when companies operate in ecologically sensitive areas or are characterized by highly resource-intensive operations. These can occur through disposal of drilling and associated wastes, well decommissioning, land use, and fuel spills.

The storage and transport of crude oil, natural gas, and related products through a vast system of maritime transportation vehicles, pipelines, trains, and trucks presents considerable risk to the environment. Leaks, accidental discharges, pipeline rights-of-way, and open easements over ecologically sensitive land could impact ecosystems in several ways, including natural habitat loss and changes in species movement.

Coal Operations

Coal operations can have a range of impacts on biodiversity. Surface mining and mountaintop removal can impact wildlife habitats. Acid mine drainage is particularly significant: it is highly acidic water, rich in heavy metals, formed when surface and shallow subsurface water comes into contact with coal mining overburden, and can have harmful effects on animals and plants.

Metals & Mining

The development, operation, closure, and remediation of mines can have a range of impacts on biodiversity, such as vegetation removal and impacts to wildlife habitats. Acid rock drainage is a particularly significant risk: it is highly acidic water, rich in heavy metals, formed when surface and shallow subsurface water come into contact with mining overburden. Acid rock drainage can have harmful effects on animals and plants.

Construction Materials

Construction materials companies often operate their own quarries close to processing facilities. Quarrying requires the removal of vegetation and topsoil. The activities have impacts on biodiversity.


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Step 3: Do research the smart way

How to conduct effective research, find the best sources and a fact-based analysis?

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