bat biodiversity partnership - Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment

Businesses with agricultural supply chains have a responsibility to understand and manage their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). There is growing consensus that work on BES and agricultural sustainability requires a focus on the ‘whole landscape’.

Where landscapes are dominated by a single crop, or a single company, this may be relatively straightforward.  Most production landscapes, however, are complex mosaics inhabited by people and companies with differing interests, all influenced by ecological, social, economic and political drivers at different levels.  Businesses can contribute to building sustainability in such landscapes by addressing their own BES impacts and dependencies.  However in many cases the impacts of an individual crop or company may form only a small part of much wider trends in the landscape.  There is thus a need to reach out to other stakeholders to address those trends.

Based on a standard approach to risk management, the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership has developed BROA, a field-based tool, for companies with agricultural supply chains. It assesses risks to biodiversity and ecosystem services, dependencies and opportunities in the landscapes where they operate.  This tool takes a holistic approach which requires the involvement of stakeholders in any given agricultural landscape.

Development history

Since its initial application across 20 British American Tobacco operating companies worldwide from 2006 - 2010, the Biodiversity Risk and Opportunity Assessment (BROA) tool has been comprehensively updated. During 2011 the Partnership drew on lessons learned from the original assessments and on reviews of the tool by leading experts to produce a stronger and more rigorous successor. In early 2012 BROA was piloted with British American Tobacco in Vietnam. It is now freely available for download on this website for any companies or organisations that wish to enhance the sustainability of their businesses and the landscapes in which they operate.

Objectives

At the outset, BROA aimed to provide a comprehensive method for assessing the risks business activities posed to biodiversity and ecosystems, business dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystems, to produce action and monitoring plans to address risks and dependencies, and for opportunities for positive actions beyond these. The updated BROA builds on this and provides a process through a Handbook and Working Tables (excel spreadsheets) to enable companies to carry out the assessment in a structured, systematic way, and to ensure consistency of use across all operating areas and by all teams who will carry out a BROA. To this end, BROA also includes a feature that makes certain a comprehensive set of commonly encountered biodiversity risk topics are taken into consideration by all practitioners.

BROA encourages practitioners to look at situations over a longer timeframe than would apply in day-to-day business, enabling the identification of underlying trends. Collaboration with external stakeholders lies at the heart of BROA - organisation staff and external stakeholders bring differing expertise and perspectives. Moreover, ‘ownership’ of the findings by the organisation and transparency with local stakeholders are both essential to secure support to drive action and monitoring plans.

BROA is divided into three distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 involves planning and budgeting for implementation, the gathering of supporting documentation about the targeted landscape, the mapping of stakeholders and operations, and the appointment of a Conservation Partner to assist in the implementation of the assessment and the resulting action and monitoring plans.
  • Phase 2 sees extensive stakeholder consultation on environmental and biodiversity issues and opportunities in the area, and detailed site surveys to follow up, assess, and prioritise risks and opportunities.
  • Phase 3 requires the development and implementation of Action and Monitoring Plans to address prioritised risks and opportunities.
"The BROA workshop in Vietnam in 2012 was a great success, as it involved not only the BAT Vinataba Joint Venture staff, but also participants from other Vinataba companies, local NGO's and other distinguished guests. This engagement with diverse stakeholders brought together a wealth of experiences and views that made the workshop truly interesting, focused and relevant to addressing biodiversity and sustainability issues in the landscapes in which we operate.

Additionally, the improvements to the BROA tool proved to bring about more clarity and objectivity to the assessment, thus enhancing the quality of the findings and corresponding action and monitoring plans. This was reflected in the positive feedback and commitment expressed by the participants. I am convinced BROA 2 will set a new benchmark in biodiversity risk assessment methods for agriculture and landscapes as a whole."
Pedro Seambelar, Asia-Pacific Regional Agronomy Manager, British American Tobacco

Key activities

The original BROA tool was developed in 2006–2007 by the Partnership and British American Tobacco. In 2006, the BROA tool was trialled with British American Tobacco companies in Indonesia and Uganda. In 2008, the important decision was taken to make BROA mandatory in all British American Tobacco’s leaf growing locations. The Partnership provided training workshops for BROA teams across British American Tobacco’s regions and by the end of 2010, 20 leaf operations had completed a BROA.

The BROAs BROAs identified a wide range of issues. Some related directly to company operations or, generically, to tobacco growing. These included reduced irrigation flow resulting from catchment deforestation; reduced water quality due to loss of river bank vegetation buffers; lowered ground water tables; risks of unsustainably sourced fuelwood being drawn into the supply chain; soil organic matter management; and impacts of agricultural intensification.  British American Tobacco Leaf companies are addressing the direct impacts of their operations themselves. Many of the issues, however, require collaboration with other stakeholders in the agricultural landscapes, including, obviously, the farming communities themselves.

  • In Indonesia, on the island of Lombok issues relating to deforestation and water supply for farmers and communities was raised. A watershed restoration project is now underway that will benefit the rural community as a whole. Read more about this here
  • In Uzbekistan, farmers are being helped to improve soil management through green manuring and crop rotation. In Bangladesh green manuring and wet and dry irrigation techniques have been implemented by farmers. Their beneficial impacts are being scaled up to a landscape scale through engagement with other farmers in regional forums.
  • In Venezuela habitat corridors have been created using native tree species to facilitate species movement and persistence in the landscape. 

Outcomes

BROA has helped British American Tobacco to be seen by  many as leading the industry in assessing risks to biodiversity and ecosystems and to the sustainability of the supply chain, and in some cases highlighted opportunities for action.

The Partnership’s work on BROA is quoted in the significant 2010 publication TEEB, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Report for Business. Opens new window

"At present, we think that British American Tobacco is the only agricultural multinational to have conducted a biodiversity risk assessment of its entire worldwide operations. This means it can base decisions on the real, on-the-ground circumstances of its leaf-growing operations in a strategic manner."
Laura Somerville, Programme Manager, Conservation Partnerships, Fauna & Flora International

If you are interested in hearing more about the BROA tool, please contact the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership or download the BROA tool.