Programme for biological diversity

July 6, 2004, 14:30 CEST

As much as a third of all living species may be threatened with extinction in the next 50 years. Hydro's management has now adopted a separate corporate policy for the preservation of biological diversity.

The International Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted at the 1992 Rio conference and has since been ratified by many countries.

It takes in ecosystems, species and genetic resources and sets targets for the preservation of biological diversity, the sustainable utilization of biological resources and the equitable distribution of their benefits.

Tool for environmental work
The Convention is an important tool in preserving biodiversity. In particular, its efforts are directed towards maintaining and conserving areas where the diversity of species is especially abundant, as well as avoiding diversity hot-spots, reducing discharges and emissions of environmentally harmful substances, preventing the spreading of alien species, planning for environmental emergencies and adopting measures aimed at avoiding the unforeseen effects of human activity.

"Hydro works with natural resources and has to be aware of the responsibility this involves. If the knock-on effects of our operations are not properly handled, this can lead to a reduction in biological diversity, " says Lasse Nord, who is responsible for Hydro's climate and environmental policy.

Nord led the group that drew up Hydro's policy for the preservation of biodiversity.

"We take a long-term view and our actions have to be sustainable. Preserving bio- diversity is all about showing respect for the earth and the resources it provides," he adds.

From ad hoc approach to programme
All countries where Hydro has its operations, are signatories to the convention. In both the Aluminium and Oil & Energy business areas, the company is involved in activities that may impact on biodiversity.

"It is important for us to understand and deal with such impacts. We have been working on this question for many years, for example in connection with development projects. We are now able to establish an overall policy, which will be incorporated in our procedures and help us monitor our everyday work. We intend to organize a specialist milieu throughout the company that will work in the area, providing expertise that units can draw upon," explains Nord.

Dealing with risk
"Besides being in keeping with our values and priorities, society at large also expects us to do the right thing and establish a biodiversity policy. There is a lot of serious commitment to this objective internationally, not least in voluntary organizations. But the financial community is also interested in how we deal with risk. Questions are asked when we raise loans, and we know that the media devotes considerable attention to areas where industrial activity may represent a threat to biodiversity. Such negative publicity is detrimental to our business and the company's reputation. In other words, this is all about how we deal with different forms of risk," he adds.

Basis established in the 1990s
Aluminium is now Hydro's most extensive area of operation. According to Bernt Malme, the company established a solid basis early in the 1990s when it carried out the impact study, a research project on environmental impact of Norwegian aluminium plants and nature's critical levels.

"The study brought about a general understanding of these critical levels. Our emissions are currently below the levels defined as critical in this study. We can confirm that our aluminium plants in Norway have impacted on the natural environment where they are situated.

Our current challenge is to continue working to reduce emissions in order to minimize their effects. Furthermore, biodiversity will be an element in monitoring the environment around the plants, and we will work together with the authorities to do this, " says Malme.

There are also considerable challenges in recovering bauxite. "We are involved in programmes that tackle biodiversity challenges in a very good way," he adds.

Oil & Energy is also directing its attention to the impact that our operations can have on biodiversity and is identifying measures to avoid such impact. Flora and fauna are examined in advance of new activities, and environmental impact assessments of the activities prepared. The assessments identify the measures that are necessary to avoid damage, and impact is monitored.

This has probably been best organized on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, where identification of seabed species has been used to monitor the impact of more than 20 years' drilling.

Coral reefs identified

On the Ormen Lange project, coral reefs have been identified along all potential pipeline routes and steps taken to ensure that they are not in any way damaged.

The identification of coral reefs is also part of the planning process when drilling exploration wells in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Measures to avoid environmentally harmful discharges will also prevent damage to marine life and biodiversity.

The same applies to emergency preparedness measures designed to tackle oil spillages, which have been designed so as to avoid harm to seabirds, marine mammals and unique shorelines.

"We probably meet our biggest challenges when we come to other parts of the world, where we lack first-hand knowledge and experience. This applies in particular to secondary impact, or the knock-on effects of our activities. The policy confirms that we will improve our knowledge about the direct impact and knock-on effects of our operations and avoid any reduction of biological diversity," says Jon Rytter Hasle of Oil & Energy.