Ulster Wildlife – Planet-first Production Achieving sustainability goals

October 2022

How can manufacturers boost biodiversity?

Attributed to Jennifer Fulton, Chief Executive Officer at Ulster Wildlife

Ulster Wildlife is Northern Ireland’s largest local nature conservation charity. It works to create a society where biodiversity and nature can thrive and are truly valued in our daily lives. The charity provides a range of services for businesses and communities, running major campaigns focused on three key areas: nature, people and climate.

Here, Jennifer Fulton, Chief Executive of Ulster Wildlife, examines how businesses like Encirc can reduce their climate impact, on a local and national level. As well as how companies can boost biodiversity by investing in the restoration of existing habitats and the creation of new ones.

Congratulations to Encirc for your recent BiTC award as Sustainable Business of the Year.  With this honour comes considerable responsibility as an environmental leader within the business sector to demonstrate and share best practice. The positive can-do attitude and enthusiasm throughout Encirc will be a key success factor for the future.

By increasing investment and awareness of climate change and biodiversity, collectively we can help improve local environments playing a part in restoring the wider landscape at scale.

Creating additional wooded areas around sites and regenerating brownfield land are just a few of the ways in which local investment can make a big difference to biodiversity in places surrounding factories.

Reducing carbon emissions in supply chains also needs to be a key focus, with CO2 and greenhouse gases directly contributing to climate change and impacting on the resilience of habitats.


Setting a precedent to boost biodiversity

At Ulster Wildlife, we’ve worked for decades with leaders in sustainability and biodiversity, including our President Emeritus Sir David Attenborough, to protect, restore and enhance habitats – including peatland, fens, wetland, grassland and woodland.

We have called for major changes to the approach to climate change, such as plans to achieve a legally binding net zero target in Northern Ireland with a higher priority on nature-based solutions to help recovery. This carbon reduction is our local contribution to the global issue of climate change stabilizing environments, keeping wildlife populations steady and food chains intact.  UN research stresses the need to ensure ecosystem services remain healthy and functioning fully. If they were to break down, this could have a severe impact across the globe, for example severe declines in pollinators would have a major impact on global food supplies.

By supporting better education and collaboration, the manufacturing industry can contribute greatly to the 2050 carbon neutrality goals set out by the government. However, to achieve these targets, urgent action needs to take place to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and more investment in factory sites and surrounding areas would increase biodiversity and improve the resilience of habitats for the wildlife that call these areas home. Manufacturers can accomplish this by surveying plant sites and by working with schools, charities and groups to create a better understanding for future generations.

Companies like Encirc are a great example of a positive approach and set a precedent on how other manufacturers can operate. Their work includes creating a green corridor with local businesses, as well as incorporating agricultural education and other biodiversity activities into local schools and colleges.

We’ve previously partnered with Encirc to carry out a study on the wildlife around its Derrylin site for its BITCNI Business and Biodiversity Charter. This saw us work with Encirc to detail the flora and animal life that live in the surrounding areas, in which we set out responding programmes which would encourage more of them to thrive.

Organisations like BITCNI and the surveys they carry out are vital in benchmarking goals for biodiversity. These companies provide key insights and updates which help manufacturers progress their initiatives and better understand their impacts. This means working more collaboratively to understand the steps the industry needs to take and sets out a path for other companies to follow.


Creating impact across the globe

Another key area that can affect biodiversity and play a leading role in the reduction of carbon emissions is the supply chain.

Supply chains can have a local, national, or even an international impact on biodiversity – whether it’s through the creation of new roads and railways through biodiverse areas or through the pollution of seas and waterways via shipping and factory activities.

Locally impacting one ecosystem and reducing its biodiversity, either through animals having to move away due to loss of habitat or making spaces inhospitable to flora, fauna and wildlife can disrupt entire food chains, creating a snowball effect that can span nations. It’s imperative that businesses do all they can in order to evaluate and reduce the negative impact their supply chains have.

Improving existing infrastructure, and the transportation methods moving materials and products is the best way to reduce carbon-led pressures on the ecosystems.

Fuel is vital factor to consider in this regard. Recent trials from Encirc to use HVO and electric powered vehicles to reduce emissions could be game changing initiatives for sustainability within the manufacturing industry.

At Ulster Wildlife, we are very encouraged to see innovative trials like these, which push the boundaries of what’s possible, laying the groundwork for an improved connection between manufacturing and nature.

Collaboration will be a key part of making these changes happen – both with nature conservation charities, like Ulster Wildlife as well as suppliers and local communities.

Companies such as Encirc, where sustainability is at their core, are great examples for the wider industry to follow or partner with. By doing so, we can help have a major positive impact and keep our flora, fauna safe allowing it to flourish for generations to come.

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