Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

How conservation and biodiversity relate to your business

Biodiversity and your business

Biodiversity - the variety of living organisms - is declining, mainly due to human activity. Clearing vegetation for example, can result in the loss, degradation or break up of habitats, which impacts on the species that live in those habitats.

Your business's impact on biodiversity can be positive as well as negative. How you manage your business will determine the scale of that impact both in your local area and further afield.

Competitive advantage

If your business consistently operates in environmentally responsible ways, you will attract ethical consumers and investors.

Many people now consider the environmental performance of businesses and their impact on biodiversity when buying their products, services or making investments. You are more likely to attract customers if you can show that your business methods protect and enhance biodiversity and the natural environment.

Planning applications

If you apply for planning permission you may need to get an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for your proposed development. EIAs consider the social, environmental and economic impacts of the development, including any effect on biodiversity or designated conservation areas.

NIEA: NI Consultation update to Environmental Impact Assessment

Scottish Government: EIAs and planning

Your planning application may also need public consultation. A good record of environmental management will help you to approach the public with confidence during the consultation.

BS 42020: Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development

British Standard 42020 aims to integrate biodiversity into all stages of the planning and development process. It is of relevance to professionals working in the fields of ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.

BSI: BS 42020 Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development.

BSI: Smart Guide to BS 42020

Environmental permits and licences

If you apply to the NIEA or SEPA for a permit, licence or other authorisation for any aspect of your business' activities, they will consider your impact on the natural environment and biodiversity. This could be in the immediate area of your intended activity, or further afield, depending on the nature of your application.

If your proposed activity could affect a designated conservation area, your application may take longer. The NIEA or SEPA will consult with the relevant conservation body if your application affects:

  • part of the European network of protected sites (Natura Network 2000) - eg Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas
  • an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in Northern Ireland
  • a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Scotland.

See the page in this guideline: Protected sites and priority habitats.

Wildlife licences

You must apply to the NIEA In Northern Ireland, or NatureScot in Scotland, for a wildlife licence if you carry out an activity that is prohibited by wildlife legislation. This includes if you kill or take certain protected species, disturb or damage the habitat of protected species or carry out certain surveys or conservation work.

Further information

Northern Ireland:

Planning NI: Local Council offices

DAERA: Biodiversity


Scottish Government: Local planning authority contact details

In this Guideline

How conservation and biodiversity relate to your business

How businesses rely on natural resources and services

Protected sites and priority habitats

Protected and priority species

Non-native species

Environmental damage to biodiversity

Managing biodiversity: Establish the baseline

Managing biodiversity: Create a site action plan

Managing biodiversity: Measure performance

Work with other organisations on biodiversity

Conservation and biodiversity legislation

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms