Biodiversity Needs a Diversity of Voices: Takeaways from Bloom 23
Walking through the halls of GreenBiz’s Bloom conference, attendees are met with the luscious sounds, scents, and plants of the rainforest. Bloom’s decor is emblematic of the conference's theme and focus: biodiversity. The first conference of its kind, Bloom gathered stakeholders across the private sector, nonprofits, and local groups alike to discuss the future of biodiversity, especially as an increasingly important topic in the corporate sustainability space.
I had the privilege of attending this inaugural conference, and while I left with many meaningful takeaways, what resonated with me most was the diversity of stakeholder groups and perspectives spotlighted throughout the conference and the learnings that came about from these conversations. Indigenous leaders and youth activists alike spoke alongside corporate sustainability leaders to discuss the need for greater collaboration and strategic ideation across groups, leaving attendees with some fruitful takeaways:
Listen to Indigenous Experts
Bloom spotlighted Indigenous leaders as keynote speakers, presenters, and panelists across the conference, which is not typically the case at most corporate sustainability conferences. Why was this so groundbreaking and important?
Indigenous groups are crucial to engage in biodiversity conversations because they are the experts in nature conservation. Because to them, their cultures and livelihoods are intrinsically intertwined with the biodiversity around them. In fact, while Indigenous people only make up 5 percent of the global population, research finds that they protect 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.
At the keynotes and breakout sessions, Indigenous leaders spoke alongside corporate sustainability leaders and provided insight on why and how to engage them in biodiversity conversations. Suggestions included adding Indigenous leaders to boards, hosting listening sessions with Indigenous stakeholders, and supporting their sovereignty over their lands through advocacy and direct funding. FPIC (Free Prior and Informed Consent) was frequently mentioned as well, which is a principle recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that requires prior consultation and consent from Indigenous communities for any activities undertaken on their land.
Full Circle Moment
For me, the highlight of the conference was hearing and meeting keynote speaker Jing Tauli Corpuz, from the Kankana-ey Igorot Peoples of the Philippines’ Cordillera region – which is actually where my ancestry traces back to. My heritage has hugely shaped my love for conservation, and so seeing Jing bring her Igorot roots and wisdom to the forefront of the conversation was a full circle moment for me.
Currently serving as the Global Policy and Advocacy Lead for Nia Tero, Jing spoke to attendees about the importance of trusting Indigenous knowledge and upholding the values of FPIC to cultivate meaningful relationships with communities. Hearing from Jing and other Indigenous experts at Bloom reinforced in me why cross-cultural and cross-sectoral conversations are so crucial when thinking of biodiversity solutions in corporate sustainability space. The biodiversity crisis impacts everyone, which is also why solutions must include everyone – especially our planet’s longest and most successful biodiversity stewards.
The Power of Youth
As Indigenous leaders and company representatives discussed why they need to work better together, another key stakeholder group was frequently brought up: youth. Youth continue to hold companies accountable for companies’ sustainability commitments, as Gen Z consumers are most likely to align with companies who actively care for environmental and social justice causes. Gen Z’s influence in the marketplace is growing, as they currently make up approximately 40 percent of the global consumer base. Their demands are reflective of a growing global movement of youth who champion for climate justice, with an emphasis on bringing Indigenous and underrepresented voices to the forefront of conversations.
Xiye Bastida, Indigenous youth climate activist from the Otomi community of Mexico, and Jerome Foster II, the youngest-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member, spoke to VERGE and Bloom conference attendees about how there should be more spaces for companies to directly engage with youth and Indigenous voices. Bastida highlighted how both sides are activists in their own regard – while youth and Indigenous activists might be pushing for change from the outside, CSR leaders are the ones who drive companies to change from the inside. Thus, more spaces that invite “outside” perspectives to inform “inside” conversations are critical, and they can open doors to the innovative solutions that our planet needs.
As a Gen Z in this space, I hope to see holistic collaboration at the forefront of future biodiversity and climate conversations, and seeing many collaborations of this kind at Bloom is a great step. Because ultimately, solutions to biodiversity will only be as fruitful as the diversity of voices they represent.
About the author:
Francesca Edralin is an Associate Specialist on the Private Sector Engagement Team and supports corporate partnerships that focus on consumer engagement, environmental education, and behavior change. She is an alumna of WWF’s BRIDGE (Building Relationships, Inclusivity, Diversity, Growth, and Excellence) internship program.