Markets working to support sustainable development

Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP)

The Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) is an international collaboration between over 70 companies, financial institutions, government agencies and civil society organisations. It aims to help companies to conserve biodiversity in an ecologically effective and economically efficient manner as they pursue their business goals.

Biodiversity offsets are measurable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant and negative impacts on biodiversity  during a project's development where appropriate prevention and mitigation measures have been taken. Ultimately, the goal of biodiversity offsets is to achieve no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity on the ground with respect to species composition, habitat structure, ecosystem function and people’s use and cultural values associated with biodiversity. 

BBOP helps implement biodiversity offsets by advocating for strict adherence to their "mitigation hierarchy" - this is:

  1. Avoidance: measures taken to avoid creating impacts from the outset, such as careful spatial or temporal placement of elements of infrastructure, in order to completely avoid impacts on certain components of biodiversity.
  2. Minimisation: measures taken to reduce the duration, intensity and / or extent of impacts (including direct, indirect and cumulative impacts, as appropriate) that cannot be completely avoided, as far as is practically feasible.
  3. Rehabilitation/restoration: measures taken to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems or restore cleared ecosystems following exposure to impacts that cannot be completely avoided and/ or minimised.
  4. Offset: measures taken to compensate for any residual significant, adverse impacts that cannot be avoided, minimised and / or rehabilitated or restored, in order to achieve no net loss or a net gain of biodiversity.  Offsets can take the form of positive management interventions such as restoration of degraded habitat, arrested degradation or averted risk, protecting areas where there is imminent or projected loss of biodiversity.

Conformance to the mitigation hierarchy is one of the ten best practice Principles established by BBOP - these are:

  1. No net loss
  2. Additional conservation outcomes
  3. Adherence to the mitigation hierarchy
  4. Limits to what can be offset
  5. Landscape Context
  6. Stakeholder participation
  7. Equity
  8. Long-term outcomes
  9. Transparency
  10. Science and traditional knowledge

And for BBOP to assist project developers to understand and apply these principles, they implement the BBOP Standard, which is enforced by auditors using either. 

  • Early stage risk assessment for projects with significant biodiversity impacts
  • A means to improve application of a 'mitigation hierarchy'
  • Assessment tools for compelte offset design

As biodiversity underpins ecosystem services, the focus of the Standard is on ensuring no net loss of biodiversity, but there are important links to ecosystem function and services:

  • A good offset design process will take into consideration the loss and gain of biodiversity at all levels of organisation, and also how changes in the composition, structure and functioning of biodiversity might influence the provision of ecosystem services to different stakeholders. There are numerous ways of doing this, as outlined in the BBOP Handbooks.
  • Key biodiversity components can include biodiversity components selected because they provide important ecosystem services, helping ensure the offset design delivers a ‘like for like or better’ outcome in terms of ecosystem services.
  • Loss-gain metrics can be selected to include methods for calculating impacts on particular ecosystem services and gains (through the offset) in those ecosystem services.
  • An important component of successful biodiversity offsets can be the development of a package of benefits to indigenous peoples and local communities to compensate them for the residual impact of the development project and the offset on their use and enjoyment of biodiversity, and to secure their support and involvement in the implementation of the offset. These benefits could range from provision of biodiversity components (e.g. medicinal plants, fuel wood) to financial compensation.
  • Most methods used internationally in biodiversity offsets for calculating loss and gain use a combination of biodiversity components as proxies, rather than economic valuation. However, some methods of economic valuation are used, and the BBOP Cost Benefit Handbook suggests a range of tools that can help ensure that people are left at least as well off as a result of the project and offset, and preferably better off.
  • One potential mechanism for securing the conservation outcomes needed for a biodiversity offset is payments for ecosystem services (PES). A range of people and organisations, from indigenous peoples and local communities, to farmers, NGOs, local authorities and protected area management boards, can be paid to deliver the specific conservation outcomes needed for the biodiversity offset to achieve no net loss (or a net gain).
Market coverage: 

There are five pilot projects in Madagascar, Ghana, USA, South Africa and New Zealand. These are voluntary agreements with the developers of the sites, four of which are mining projects while the other is residential consutruction (USA). 

Background information: 
  • The Standard was published in January 2012. The program is now looking for organisations to report back on their experience using the standard.
  • The Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) Secretariat is made up of Forest Trends and the Wildlife Conservation Society
  • The BBOP Advisory Council is made up of many members drawing on diverse groups: companies, service providers, financial institutions, government and intergovernmental organisations, conservation and civil society groups.
  • The next stage of the project will be an update on the standard, using data from field trials and a consultation process. This will begin 2015-2016. 
Funding source: 

At present the BBOP is in pilot stages and is financially supported by a number of donors: IFC, MacArthur Foundation, Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spacial Planning and the Environment.