Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Biodiversity and Access to Sustainable Development

Opinion article by: Marcela Marin Mira* (mmarin@eafit.edu.co ) 
International Business student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development - UNCTAD's Division on International Trade and Commodities, which seeks the promotion of inclusive and sustainable development in international trade, launched the BioTrade Initiative in 1996. This Initiative, being the longest running United Nations initiative on business and biodiversity, has focused its efforts on supporting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and has developed programs for different regions and countries to enhance the sustainable bio-resources management, product development, value adding processing and marketing.

As stated by the CBD, “Biodiversity is the source of many products and services utilized by society and its sustainable use is thus fundamental for long-term sustainable development”, and that is why it is of great importance to work on the integration of groups of businesses and communities, governments, universities, trade promotion organizations, chamber of commerce and regional and international organizations in order to meet the BioTrade Target, achieving a significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss, as this goal has failed to be achieved in the past without counting on effective and rapid responses.

Leading BioTrade to businesses is not only about ensuring the conservation of the environment but also mitigating the negative impacts on the populations, particularly those disadvantaged populations into the world economy.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA - initiated in 2001) that has the goal of assessing the current condition and trends in the ecosystems and the services they provide (such as food, clean water, forest products, flood control and natural resources) to give options looking forward its restoration, conservation, sustainable usage and contribution to human well-being has conclude, in one of its reports, that 60% of the world’s ecosystems are degraded or unsustainably used and are directly impacting the livelihoods of the populations that depend on these resources.

The above reasons have moved many countries to implement sustainable management plans and legal frameworks. To mention we have Bolivia which has succeed by using the basis of a land-use planning model in cooperation with the European Commission that promotes sustainable development, protecting the rights of indigenous peoples living in affected areas. In Southern Africa, the concentration on the development of products derived from native biodiversity has benefited many producers. In the Peruvian Amazon, a big amount of rural families participate in the extraction of Camu-camu (native tree). In Namibia, Marula to harvest trees is very easy and is a means of opportunity for rural women.

On the other hand, we have the formulation and implementation of policies such as the EU Novel Foods Regulation that ensures a high level of human health and consumers’ protection.

After the Second World War the human-being started to think the environment as an important issue for an integral development, but it was in the period from 1972 to 1992 where this concern had the greatest expansion, because the countries around the world began to consider it as part of a juridical framework. After 1992, when the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (includes 27 environmental principles) took place, we have noticed some advancement on this matter, but not as influential as it should be in the International Law.

Unless biodiversity is still an emerging trend, it is expected to accelerate in the years to come, because producers and consumers are, increasingly, understanding what biodiversity is and valuing its importance.


CBD (2014). Obtenido de Convention on Biological Diversity: http://www.cbd.int/gbo3/

Escobar, E. (23 de Marzo de 2012). A magazine on Business and Biodiversity. Obtenido de BioTrade Initiative: http://www.biotrade.org/privatesector4.asp

International Trade and Commodities. (s.f.). Obtenido de UNCTAD: http://unctad.org/en/pages/DITC/DITC.aspx

Millenium Assessment (2014). Obtenido de Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/About.html#1

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Changing Role of Business in Agricultural Development

Opinion Article by Juan Gonzalo Perez* (jperezg@eafit.edu.co)
* International Business Student, Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia

Times are changing and as the world population grow and global change strikes, communities in rural areas are encountering some serious problems. For instance according to the Climate Change Report 2014 released by the United Nation, in Latin America and in the Caribbean there is a risk of water resources becoming scarce and food production decreasing, aspects that will affect the agricultural development. (IDB, 2013)

On the one hand, in a traditional approach, the responsibility of addressing socio environmental conflicts in rural areas has been yielded to nonprofit organizations and governments, yet it is difficult for them to make changes at a large scale due to the lack of resources, and information. On the other hand, in recent years companies have been viewed as a major cause of environmental, social and economic problems. But, what if the solution to rural development issues was at the core of every agricultural business?

In a 2011 article published by the Harvard Business Review, Professor Michael Porter and Mark Kramer present a new concept that is changing the role of business in development, this concept is known as Creating Shared Value (CSV).

According to Professor Porter, the concept of creating shared value consists of addressing a social issue with a business model, allowing businesses to create social value and economic value simultaneously. This can be done by meeting societal needs through the process of reconceiving products and markets, redefining productivity in the value chain by utilizing resources, suppliers, logistics, and employees more productively, and enabling local cluster development by improving the local business environment (Porter & Kramer, 2011).

To achieve the creation of shared value in agriculture, it is fundamental that companies change how they see themselves and how others see their business. This implies changing the idea of short term growth based on profits and start thinking long term by adapting to the needs of the communities in which they are involved.

To illustrate the differences in approaches let’s take a look at the Fair Trade movement. Fair trade seeks to increase the revenue that goes to poor farmers by paying them higher prices for their crops. The problem with this approach is that is about redistributions instead of increasing the overall amount of value created. With the shared value approach, poor farmers focus on improving growing techniques and strengthening the local cluster of supporting suppliers and institutions so that farmers can increase efficiency, yields, product quality, and sustainability; at the end it will lead to a bigger pie of revenue that benefits farmers and the companies that buy from them. (Porter & Kramer, 2011)

In accordance to a case study presented by the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB), a Chilean Company named Subsole, is applying shared value by focusing in sustainable workforce, which means proving health benefits, education, professional development programs, child care facilities, year- round employment and the right working conditions to the workers in the supply chain that are mostly small, independent farmers. As a result, in recent years the company has grown so rapidly that is now one of the top five fruit exporters in Chile.
In conclusion, creating shared value goes back to a simple idea in which if agricultural communities do well and develop while taking care of the environment, then companies also do well. Creating shared value is different for every company, but it is possible for every company to rethink the way they do business so that social issues can be addressed as part of their core activity, both creating value to the shareholders and society (Porter & Kramer, 2011). Finally, as said in the words of Professor Michael Porter at the 2013 Creating Shared Value Forum held in Colombia, “Businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face.” 


Inter- American Development Bank. (2013). The Fruits of their Labor:A Case Study in Shared Value. Washington, DC: Author

Porter, M., & Kramer, M. (2011). Creating Shared Value. Harvard Business Review, Obtain at http://unm2020.unm.edu/knowledgebase/university- leadership-and-governance/11-porter-creating-shared-value-ss- highlights.pdf

United Nations, Intergovernmental Panel on Global Change. (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Yohohama, Japan.