By Michael Herlihy, health and environmental manager, Danone Macroom

Biodiversity refers to the variety of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms existing and working together in delicate ecosystems to maintain balance and support life.

These ecosystems provide humans with the resources, food, medicine and clean water we need to survive.

Though we rely on high-functioning biodiversity, we find ourselves at a critical juncture; biodiversity is declining significantly and swiftly across the globe and many of the world’s ecosystems are now on the brink of collapse.

The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2021 highlights loss of biodiversity as one of the biggest threats facing our planet over the next 5-10 years.

Ireland’s dependence on biodiversity

Ireland depends heavily on pollinators and the service they provide as the annual value of insect pollination to Irish-produced food crops is estimated at €59 million.

However, of the 98 different types of bees on the island of Ireland, nearly one third is threatened with extinction by 2030, and Irish butterfly populations have declined by 12% over the past decade.

The cost and incredible risk of ignoring this problem is too high. We need to act now to save biodiversity.

Business, like all of us, has a responsibility to play its part in averting this ecological breakdown. Aligning with the National Biodiversity Action Plan to reverse nature decline is key.

Business and biodiversity is a win-win

Protecting and improving biodiversity is not just a nice thing to do – it makes business sense.

Food businesses or organisations that rely on agriculture and nature require flourishing ecosystems to supply their goods and services.

Furthermore, businesses see a demand from consumers, stakeholders, and policymakers for action on climate change, including loss of flora and fauna, and a failure to do so can lead to financial or reputational risks.

Leadership on climate concerns means businesses not only mitigate their impact on biodiversity loss and protect crucial ecosystems, but also prepare themselves for future regulatory requirements.

The growing focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is encouraging business to make positive change to improve sustainability and biodiversity protection.

All Ireland Pollinator Plan

The All Ireland Pollinator Plan is a cross-sector island-wide business plan that sets out to reverse declines in pollinating insects on the island of Ireland.

The first phase of the plan, launched in 2015, focused on communicating the importance of pollinators and the devastating impact of declining populations.

The new 2021-2025 strategy, launched in March this year, focuses on action. The five-year plan urges businesses, among others, to act for nature by helping support habitat restoration on a scale that demonstrably reverses the decline in pollinators.

Working with the All Ireland Pollinator Plan provides us with expert guidance to ensure we’re implementing the right measures to not just support biodiversity – but specifically, our local wildlife, as each local area and region has a unique ecosystem.

Small changes, big impact

We developed our own biodiversity action plan for the Macroom site. Located on 60ac of land and within close proximity to The Geragh, a special area of conservation, our unique location offered boundless opportunities for enhancing biodiversity value.

In June 2019, Wetland Surveys carried out a study to give an overview of the biodiversity value of the site. The study showed areas of high ecological value such as grassland and woodlands with an opportunity to enhance biodiversity by restoring and protecting nature.

In 2020, we created a biodiversity field where we planted 700 native Irish biodiversity rich trees such as beech, ash, sycamore and alder, as well as native Irish wildflower species such as cornflower and meadow buttercup, in order to provide a habitat for pollinators.

This year, we designated an area of grass on site as a wildflower meadow. We also built and installed a bee and insect hotel in our biodiversity field to provide shelter for our pollinators and recently added some nesting boxes.

Collaborating for Change

The All Ireland Pollinator plan is an example of how government, local authorities, businesses, schools and communities can come together to tackle the biodiversity challenges we face.

We need to continue to work together to reverse pollinator declines and leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it to protect and secure future generations.

I call on other businesses across Ireland to also enshrine biodiversity protection into their corporate strategies, and also encourage local communities to take steps to reverse the decline in pollinators so we can look forward to a rich future for nature and play our part in the fight against climate change.