October 3, 2012

The Biodiversity Risk & Opportunity Assessment (BROA) tool

With less than a week to go until the Convention on Biological Diversity begins, biodiversity is definitely the topic on hand, and the focus of the Landscapes Blog for the past few weeks. However, assessing risks to biodiversity and ecosystems from business ventures has not been given its spot in the limelight. Recently as part of the dialogue at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2012 in Jeju, the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership discussed their approach to addressing impacts and dependencies on biodiversity at a landscape level through the BROA tool. Jonathan Escolar, Programme Coordinator of Business & Biodiversity at the Earthwatch Instititute, elaborates on the tool and its applications.

As the landscape approach gains traction as a way of addressing ecological, social and economic drivers of change in an integrated way, we are faced with the challenge of turning the concept into reality. Some agricultural landscapes are complex mosaics of land-uses, with different landowners, livelihoods, and motivations, as well as diverse levels of resources and influence. These kinds of diverse agricultural landscapes are also becoming scarcer as agricultural intensification gradually erodes natural features and the biodiversity they help to support.

But which actors are in a position to facilitate and mobilise the implementation of a landscape approach to sustainable development in agricultural landscapes?

The answers may vary from landscape to landscape, but one bound to crop up time and again is business. Businesses with agricultural supply chains and a global reach may either directly or indirectly engage hundreds of thousands of farmers growing a range of crops in agricultural landscapes. These businesses both impact and depend upon the BES in these landscapes, an issue that is gaining increasing recognition, as some of the conversations at the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) this year attest to.

Participating in this dialogue was the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership, a multilateral partnership formed of the Earthwatch Institute, Fauna & Flora International, Tropical Biology Association, and British American Tobacco. The Partnership has been in existence since 2001 working to address some of the challenging issues surrounding conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) within agricultural landscapes. This work includes helping British American Tobacco address its own operational impacts and dependencies on BES through its network of farmers. To this end the Partnership has developed and tested the Biodiversity Risk & Opportunity Assessment, or BROA, tool.

BROA takes a landscape approach to identify, prioritise, and address biodiversity and business sustainability risks and opportunities. The BROA tool provides a framework for a company to work together with a local conservation partner organisation and to reach out to multiple stakeholders to tackle BES conservation issues at a landscape level. The tool was first piloted in 2006 in Indonesia and Uganda and subsequently rolled out across all British American Tobacco leaf growing operations. In 2011 it was reviewed by a number of external experts, updated, and field tested in Vietnam in early 2012.

Because tobacco is grown in mixed agricultural landscapes and is commonly rotated with a variety of crops including rice, barley, beans, and oats, BROA is not a tool specific to the tobacco crop – it deals with issues generic to many agricultural landscapes. The Partnership therefore decided to make the BROA tool open source and freely available to any company or organisation that is looking for a way of coming together with other stakeholders to address BES conservation on a landscape level.

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress this year, the Partnership discussed the challenges around adopting a landscape approach to BES conservation, multi-stakeholder engagement, sustainable livelihoods, and the contribution businesses can make in this space, with interested colleagues from a range of organisations and companies. These issues are complex, but the Partnership believes that BROA can be part of a solution, and would like to hear from others working in this area.

The BROA tool and related support materials are available on this Partnership webpage. The Partnership is holding an evening event in London on November 14th 2012 with leading figures in business, academia, and conservation, to share approaches and tools for business to improve understanding and management of BES within agricultural landscapes.

For more information please visit www.batbiodiversity.org, or contact bat_bp@batbiodiversity.org.

Photo credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras
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