Land degradation is a process whereby the value of the biophysical environment is depleted, including by human-induced drivers. Critical human-induced drivers include deforestation, wetland drainage, overgrazing, unsustainable land use practices, and the expansion of agricultural and industrial operations, such as for energy production. Industrial expansion often involves infrastructure development and mining and quarrying, which can involve activities like gas flaring and damming, and the further degradation of land through desertification and pollution.
Aside from severe environmental impact, land degradation affects internationally protected human rights to food, water, health and livelihood. Land degradation particularly impacts the poorest and hungriest populations most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and with limited alternatives. Increasingly, environmental degradation creates environmental refugees forced to leave their homes due to lack of resources. Scarcity of resources can also generate political and social tension and armed conflict within communities.
Land degradation might cause particular distress to indigenous communities, including because of their cultural or spiritual relationship with land. Indigenous Peoples have rights to the conservation, restoration and safeguarding of the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources.
Businesses are obliged to mitigate the risk of land degradation caused by their operations. Even where not mandated by national law, businesses should perform environmental impact assessments (with the cooperation of the relevant people concerned) and undertake comprehensive and adequate due diligence regarding environmental factors.
Businesses should seek to take restorative measures such as tree-planting, and other strategies, to combat pollution generated by their operations.