Blog: Inspiring Business Solutions for Healthy Parks Healthy People

This engaging session from the ‘Improving health and well-being’ Congress stream highlighted the important role that global business plays in biodiversity and human health.

Speakers included Gerard Bos, Director of IUCN Global Business and Biodiversity Programme; Eileen McNeely, Harvard School of Public Health; and David Eichberg from Hewlett-Packard.

All of the speakers had a similar message: that businesses must work with government, other organisations and the community to help solve environmental and social challenges.

Gerard Bos spoke about how leading companies need to implement best practice environmental initiatives to help drive transformational change at a business-sector level. He said to really influence change companies need to come together to combine their learnings and share with the wider sector. Together they need to influence companies that don’t necessarily see the value in environmental investment. To help, a consortium led by IUCN is developing a Natural Capital Protocol, a comprehensive guide to measuring and valuing natural capital in business decision-making.

Eileen McNeely said every person, product and company unavoidably has an environmental footprint. She said, “We can reduce them but they’ll never be zero.”  She talked about how businesses can make environmental handprints, positive impacts made by companies. She said positive handprints can have ripple effects on people and our planet.

Eileen gave the example of one company that established a water programme in their supplier factory to improve community relations and community health. She said the problem in the company’s local community was there was limited access to good drinking water and as a result there was a high level of infectious disease within the community. At the company, employee absenteeism was high and productivity was impacted. Many employees were taking days off work because their children were sick. The company’s solution was really creative and innovative.

The company surveyed their employees and found out where their children went to primary school. They assessed the water quality at the schools and found out that not one of the schools had potable water. The company partnered with Planet Water to build water filtration towers in the schools. They also partnered with Children International to teach the children about germ transmission and hand washing.

After a year, the company measured the impact and the results were very positive. The health and well-being of both the children and the parents increased; a great result for both the community and the company.

David Eichberg said companies need to align their corporate strategy with environmental sustainability. He spoke about Hewlett-Packard’s Earth Insights' Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) Analytics System. It’s an innovative application designed to speed up data collection, management and analysis. He said the technology is allowing scientists to quickly obtain environmental data to influence decision makers. It also provides a window for the community to see what’s happening to environments such as rainforests, which are diminishing across the world.

It was a great session, which highlighted the power of companies that can make a huge and lasting positive impact on our environment.