Environmental responsibilities

Conservation and biodiversity issues for businesses

Biodiversity refers to all species of plants and animals, including any genetic variations within those species, and the complex ecosystems they live in.

The world is losing biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate as a result of human activity. All types of business operating near protected areas should be aware of their responsibilities for conservation and protecting biodiversity. This doesn't just apply to land-based industries such as forestry or farming, but to all offices, factories and other business activities based on or near these areas.

The business benefits of conserving biodiversity include:

  • a competitive advantage - businesses that can demonstrate that they are committed to environmental protection will attract and retain customers, suppliers and employees who share those values
  • compliance with environmental legislation
  • environmental reporting - your business will be able to report on its environmental performance and management

Protected areas include:

  • Common land - for more information, see our guide on common land.
  • Local nature reserves - places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally.
  • Areas of outstanding natural beauty - areas of particular natural beauty in need of conservation.
  • National parks - tracts of the countryside that have been given protection for the conservation and enhancement of their special qualities.
  • National nature reserves - important areas of wildlife habitat.
  • Sites of special scientific interest - good examples of natural heritage of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms. For more information, see our guide on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and historical monuments.
  • Special areas of conservation - strictly protected sites for habitat types and species that are considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level.
  • Special protection areas - strictly protected sites classified for rare and vulnerable birds.
  • Wetlands.
  • UNESCO biospheres - areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems which are internationally recognised under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme.

To find out whether you operate on or near a protected area, use the interactive map on the MAGIC website. Alternatively, you can call the Defra Helpline on Tel 08459 33 55 77 or the Environment Agency Helpline on Tel 03708 506 506.

There are also a number of species that are protected. You can find a list of priority species and habitats at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website. For information about importing endangered species, see our guide on enforcing CITES controls.

For more information, see our guide on conservation and biodiversity - an overview.

Subjects covered in this guide


Environment Agency Helpline

03708 506 506

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77


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Developed with:
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Environment Agency