Environmental Rights

Business operations lead to significant loss of biodiversity


Biodiversity is the variety and variability of all life on earth: different varieties of plants, animals and microorganisms, their genetic variation, and the varied ecosystems they form.


Biodiversity is fundamentally important, both for its intrinsic value and for its value to humans.


However, loss of biodiversity is happening at unprecedented rates and is largely caused by human activity such as changes in land use, climate change, pollution, over-exploitation and the introduction of invasive alien species. In order to make significant and lasting improvements to reduce the increasing trend of biodiversity loss, biodiversity policies of conservation and protection must be incorporated into business operations in order to drive changes in human behaviour.


The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) state that all business enterprises have the responsibility to respect human rights; this includes by avoiding infringing on the human rights of others, such as by causing biodiversity loss. Businesses whose operations lead to a significant loss in biodiversity may adversely affect the right to a healthy environment (which is legally recognized by 155 States), as well as the many other human rights which rely on biodiversity, including the right to life, and the rights to food, water and sanitation, health and culture.


Indigenous Peoples are among the most affected by biodiversity loss and are equally often best placed to protect against biodiversity loss. Businesses should engage in prior consultation with Indigenous Peoples to assess whether their operations will have an adverse impact on biodiversity in the region. The conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the resources arising from genetic resources, are requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007

SDG 15


SDG 15.5

Businesses that combat biodiversity loss may contribute to SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.