british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Managing biodiversity

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Sustainability Report 2010

Managing biodiversityBiodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and is essential for sustaining ecosystems to support species, including humans. Our business depends on biodiversity for continued access to resources, such as water, healthy soils and timber, and we endeavour to understand and minimise these impacts on biodiversity. By protecting the biodiversity around tobacco growing areas, we have the opportunity to help ensure that our future supplies of tobacco are secure.

Our Group Biodiversity Statement states our aim to embed biodiversity conservation across our businesses. Our companies assess their biodiversity impacts and dependencies and then devise action plans to reduce and mitigate these.

The challenges for us are in the complexity of biodiversity issues and how they vary between locations: different strategies are needed around the world and progress is difficult to assess.

The British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership

Since 2001, we have worked with three NGOs in the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership: Fauna & Flora International, the Tropical Biology Association and Earthwatch Institute. This has helped us to develop specific biodiversity tools and generate greater awareness of the issue within the Group and our supply chain.

Through the Partnership, we were involved in 2010 in more than 30 biodiversity projects worldwide. These fell into two categories:

  • Projects focused on biodiversity management in our own operations; and
  • Conservation projects selected and managed by our NGO partners.

We donated £1 million per year to the Partnership in its first five years and £1.5 million per year for the five years from 2006. In 2010, we agreed the scope of work for the next five years of the Partnership, with a commitment of £1.5 million per year. There will be fewer, larger projects focusing on biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and the ecosystems on which they depend, specifically:

  • Reducing unsustainable use of forests for fuel and restoring natural forests;
  • Enhancing freshwater ecosystems, through improved vegetation cover and water management; and
  • Promoting agricultural practices that enhance soil health and biodiversity.

‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ initiative, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, has recognised the Partnership as an effective example of how businesses can address biodiversity. You can read the study at Opens in new window. The Partnership has published a progress report on key achievements since 2006 and plans going forward. You can find this at Opens in new window.

Biodiversity risk and opportunity assessments

We completed biodiversity risk and opportunity assessments in all our leaf growing operations. Corrective action plans have been developed to address a range of issues, including:

  • Threats to soil and water health from non-tobacco agricultural activities;
  • Unsustainable populations and economic pressure on areas of forest;
  • Damage to riverbanks and the surrounding areas; and
  • Opportunities to improve biodiversity in afforestation projects.

Some inconsistencies in the application of the biodiversity risk and opportunity assessments were highlighted, so in 2011 the Biodiversity Partnership will review and revise the biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment tool.

Biodiversity projects

We continue to raise awareness of biodiversity issues through workshops and online training for employees and training sessions and agronomy support for farmers.

In areas where fast-growing eucalyptus was planted as a source of fuelwood, but is now no longer required, we have an opportunity to look at ways to return these areas to native forest. In Chile and Sri Lanka, the Partnership is supporting our companies to identify approaches to replace areas of eucalyptus with native forest. In trial areas in Sri Lanka, natural forest is re-establishing itself effectively, while in Chile, where conditions differ, regeneration has been slower.

Our company in Uganda is supporting the Partnership to help local communities maintain native forest, through a programme of afforestation, education and activities to generate alternative incomes. The challenge has been to demonstrate the value to local communities of maintaining the regenerated forest, rather than using it for domestic and commercial fuel.

Managing biodiversity: what's next?

In 2011, the Biodiversity Partnership will embark on its next stage of projects, as well as reviewing and revising our biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment tool. Research will also be carried out to verify the apparent return of wildlife to trial areas of re-established natural forest in Sri Lanka.