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Conservation and biodiversity issues for businesses


Biodiversity refers to all species of plants and animals, including any genetic variations within those species, and the complex ecosystems they live in.

The world is losing biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate as a result of human activity. All types of business operating near protected areas should be aware of their responsibilities for conservation and protecting biodiversity. This doesn't just apply to land-based industries such as forestry or farming, but to all offices, factories and other business activities based on or near these areas.

Advantages of conserving biodiversity

The business benefits of conserving biodiversity include:

  • a competitive advantage - businesses that can demonstrate that they are committed to environmental protection will attract and retain customers, suppliers and employees who share those values
  • compliance with environmental legislation
  • environmental reporting - your business will be able to report on its environmental performance and management

Protected areas include:

  • Local nature reserves - places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally.
  • Areas of outstanding natural beauty - areas of particular natural beauty in need of conservation.
  • National parks - tracts of the countryside that have been given protection for the conservation and enhancement of their special qualities.
  • National nature reserves - important areas of wildlife habitat.
  • Sites of special scientific interest - good examples of natural heritage of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms.
  • Special areas of conservation - strictly protected sites for habitat types and species that are considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level.
  • Special protection areas - strictly protected sites classified for rare and vulnerable birds.
  • Wetlands.
  • UNESCO biospheres - areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems which are internationally recognised under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme.

To find out whether you operate on or near a protected area, you can call the NIEA Biodiversity Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9605.

There are also a number of species that are protected. You can find a list of priority species and habitats at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website. For information about importing endangered species, see our guide on enforcing CITES controls.

Enterprise Europe Network biodiversity advice

If you are planning on setting up in another European country, there may be specific national laws to protect a particular area or natural resource.  These laws will affect your business if you deal in animal, plant or timber products, or if you use genetically-modified materials.

You can get advice on an individual EU country's biodiversity laws through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a network of business advice partner organisations across the EU, with the Northern Ireland branch hosted within Invest Northern Ireland.