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Monitoring, Reporting and Communicating


Any plan needs to be monitored to ensure that it progresses towards its intended outcomes. This ensures efficient management of the programme and provides a means to communicate initiatives and achievements.

1. Monitoring

Companies need to establish systems for tracking how their biodiversity action plans are being implemented, if targets are being met and whether the overall biodiversity objectives are being acheived. There are two approaches for assessing performance:

• Monitoring and evaluating management activities and actions against targets. For instance, a target could be to run employee awareness raising initiatives. Reporting the number employees informed about biodiversity could be used as an indicator rather than reporting on actual biodiversity outcomes.
• Monitoring outcomes of specific activities using biodiversity indicators. Such outcomes can be difficult to gage, mainly because the very nature of biodiversity is that it fluctuates naturally over time and seasons, and that wildlife/animals are obviously mobile. However, monitoring biodiversity directly by using indicators can show actual impacts of actions and activities rather than just measurements of the process.

2. Reporting

Environmental and/or sustainability reporting can help to build business value through the 'triple bottom line' delivering long-term value to a company. Reporting also serves as an important internal management tool, helping to ensure transparency, identify opportunities and minimise risks. Reporting openly to stakeholders can improve a company’s reputation and drive better performance through feedback and reviews.

There are essentially three routes for reporting on biodiversity initiatives and achievements:

• Becoming certified, for example through an acknowledged scheme such as ISO 14001, EMAS or attaining the Wildlife Trust’s Biodiversity Benchmark
• By following a framework for reporting, such as the Global Reporting Initiative or responding to one of the indexes on environmental performance, such as the Business in the Community Index of Corporate Responsibility.
• Through developing an independent reporting mechanism, such as a web-site on biodiversity activities or data.

In the UK, the Government has been encouraging businesses to publish reports on their environmental performance and DEFRA has published a set of guidelines on how to produce a good quality environmental report. The Operating Financial Review requires directors of to prepare annual operating and financial reviews providing an analysis of the development and performance of a company including non-financial information such as environmental, social and community matters. The Turnbull Report on Corporate Governance (1999) requires publicly listed companies to disclose processes for addressing significant risks. Since July 2000, occupational pension funds have been required to disclose the extent to which they take environmental, social and ethical considerations into account in their investment decisions.

Towards Transparency: progress on global sustainability reporting 2004 provides an overview of sustainability reporting around the world, identifying a number of trends and challenges while calling for improvements in coverage, standards and credibility. For reporting news, information, legal requirements and a wide selection of corporate reports from around the world see The International Corporate Environmental Reporting Site.

3. Review

Targets will need periodic review as conditions change and for this reason, it is important that the outcomes of monitoring exercises are shared with other groups which may be able to help interpret and analyse data. For instance, a change in the population of a particular bird or butterfly could be due to off-site activities, in which case a company which has committed to maintain that population needs to work with others to assess appropriate action.

There remains much which is unknown about nature and so absolute numeric indicators may not be useful if a company is faced with new discoveries about a species either on its site or elsewhere. You should constantly review your approach to biodiversity to ensure that it is not only delivering gains for habitats and species but also that it also yields value for your business.

4. Communicating more widely

The key to maximising the value of biodiversity initiatives for your company's external reputation and internal culture is communication. By allocating resources in this area you can effectively gear the time and money you have already put into developing and implementing your BAP. To yield long term benefits, what you are communicating must be credible and visible on the ground.

Tell people what you are doing for biodiversity - starting with your own staff. Consider what mechanisms are appropriate for your organisation - a staff briefing/presentation, a leaflet desk drop, an article in an existing staff publication, a company wide email, your intranet systems and notice boards are some of the possibilities. For external communication you may wish to consider a dedicated leaflet or brochure, or utilise existing media such as your environmental reporting vehicle or company website. You can also consider articles within the magazines, leaflets websites of any of the partner organisations involved in your biodiversity initiatives.

To reach a wider audience for larger scale initiatives, you might want to engage the media. The press, especially local press, are often looking for stories with a wildlife edge. Television and radio can hit a wider audience but to engage them you may need a topical story or a personality with a national profile. This is where biodiversity initiatives with links to prominent names, for example by supporting certain charities, can pay dividends. A more focused approach may be of value when communicating your Company BAP to key stakeholders such as local communities, statutory bodies (e.g. English Nature) or Government. Meetings and site visits to your biodiversity initiatives may be particularly effective in demonstrating your biodiversity programmes and how they will benefit wildlife.

Timing is everything. Phasing the publication of your efforts to demonstrate the improvements you are making will both show the changes you are bringing about and help to maintain the momentum of the story. Linking the process to key aspects of your business, for example new developments, may boost the value of the initiative and improve publicity opportunities.

Photo Credit: Peter Wakely/ English Nature

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