The Conservation International (CI) - BHP Billiton Alliance supports the delivery of enduring benefits to biodiversity, ecosystems and other environmental resources around the world. In 2013 BHP Billiton – one of the world’s leading diversified resources companies – voluntarily committed to financing the conservation and continuing management of areas of high biodiversity and ecosystem value that are of national and international conservation significance. This target is in addition to the environmental management requirements of BHP Billiton businesses, which includes requirements to implement compensatory actions and a commitment to not explore or extract resources within the boundaries of IUCN Protected Areas Categories I to IV. CI - a global NGO focused on the protection of nature and global biodiversity for the benefit of people - engages with all sectors of society to achieve its mission, including the energy and mining sectors, and in 2011 formed a strategic long-term alliance with BHP Billiton to support the delivery of their conservation target, and to improve BHP Billiton’s approach to biodiversity management more broadly. To date, two conservation projects are underway in Australia and Chile.
The CI-BHP Billiton Alliance is one of a number of examples of collaborations, where resources companies and conservation organizations have come together to agree on mutual objectives and effectively deliver joint outcomes for the long-term benefit of biodiversity, ecosystems and other environmental resources. Biodiversity continues to decline at an alarming rate and more investment must be made in biodiversity conservation in general and protected areas in particular around the world. Innovative approaches to generate additional and sustained funding have been called for by both the IUCN and the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This Alliance demonstrates a model for establishing an effective mechanism that contributes to the long-term sustainable financing of areas of high biodiversity and ecosystem value that are of national and international conservation significance, including Protected Areas.
- Design and implementation of a portfolio of conservation projects: Through the Alliance, CI and BHP Billiton have jointly developed a systematic framework and approach to designing and implementing conservation investments. The approach leverages both BHP Billiton’s risk based approach to project design and CI’s experience and expertise in establishing long-term conservation areas that address financial, legal and governance requirements. Projects are selected based on their conservation significance and evaluated to ensure that they will make a lasting contribution to our global natural heritage. Each project is required to reach a high standard for effective conservation management and will be supported by a sustainable financing mechanism, so benefits to people and nature will continue for many years into the future.
- Inform corporate requirements: CI has been providing technical expertise to BHP Billiton to help them manage land and enhance biodiversity in a responsible manner. This has included contributing to improvements in their corporate environmental requirements in the areas of compensatory actions and the definition of ‘area of influence’, which takes into account business activities and their potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the environment.
A number of lessons have been learned through the establishment of the Alliance. Prior to launching the collaboration, both organizations spent a year collaborating, building trust, understanding respective expertise, tools, management systems and jointly piloting and developing processes that formed the basis for the Alliance. One of the applied learning’s of the Alliance to date has been application of new risk assessment methodologies to conservation projects, using insights from BHP Billiton’s robust systems for risk identification, assessment, prevention and control. These methodologies, when applied to conservation project design, allow for improved communication of project planning and implementation to decision makers whose core area of business expertise fall outside environmental conservation. Importantly, they have also resulted in project investments that should be resilient to a variety of factors and events – including reputational, financial and implementation risks. In addition, BHP Billiton has applied lessons learnt through the governance and financing requirements for protected areas to establish more robust internal requirements for compensatory actions (or offsets).
The Alliance has been influential in enhancing BHP Billiton’s approach to biodiversity. As part of a recent review of environmental management requirements, BHP Billiton has established principles to guide its Businesses on establishing compensatory actions. The principles require that compensatory actions must be appropriate and not contribute to any additional impacts, must be effective in responding to the residual impact and must endure in the long term. As of 2014, BHP Billiton has voluntarily committed more than US$30 million to conservation, including the Five Rivers Conservation Area in Tasmania, Australia, and the Valdivian Coastal Reserve Project in southern Chile.
Results include the conservation of greater than 60,000 ha of habitat for 16 globally threatened species; the support of more than 50 direct jobs; the generation of greater than 900 million cubic meters of high-quality fresh water; and, the avoidance of the release of 75,000 tons of CO2 -e per annum.