How does the growing of this ingredient either help or hurt global biodiversity?

Jemima Snow avatar
Written by Jemima Snow
Updated over a week ago

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is a measure of the impact that a given ingredient's agricultural production has on the surrounding flora and fauna, crop genetic diversity, and microbial biodiversity.

Most generally, biodiversity refers to the varied forms of flora and fauna, big and small, that make up any given ecosystem. Biodiverse ecosystems are necessary for carbon sequestration, climactic stabilization, and healthy ecosystem productivity. A thriving, biodiverse ecosystem has a vast and complex range of living organisms, both above and below ground.

How does biodiversity relate to agriculture, product development, and the food system?

Biodiversity is critical to our ability to produce food in the long term. Overproduction of one type of organism makes our supply system vulnerable to pests, disease, and changes in climate. A biodiverse planet and the ecosystems that it's composed of are treasuries of survival strategies, complex foods, climactic resilience, and CO2 storage.

What are the biggest contributors to biodiversity loss?


  1. Land-use change is by far the biggest contributor to biodiversity loss. The destruction of ecosystems, whether plains or forest or wetland or any other, for use in agricultural production has reduced the complexity of the soil, sent millions of species to their extinction and minimized the earth’s capacity to regulate the quality of our air and water.

  2. Pesticides and herbicides are powerful chemicals that often kill off unintended species of plants and animals in addition to their intended targets, and are particularly harmful to friendly pollinators.

  3. Nitrogen-heavy synthetic fertilizers contaminate waterways due to crop runoff and lead to algal blooms which suffocate marine life in huge swaths of lakes and oceans hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where the chemicals were applied.


Palm oil and non-US sourced soy are large drivers of deforestation and therefore are substantial contributors to biodiversity loss.

How do we measure Biodiversity impact?

Biodiversity is calculated as the impact that a given ingredient's production (including growing, extracting, or land use) has on its surrounding ecosystem. This includes the impact on both macro flora and fauna (animals and trees) and micro flora and fauna (invertebrates, bacteria, fungi, etc).

Ingredients Along the Biodiversity Impact Spectrum:

Key Data Sources

How does my ingredient portfolio compare to others in the industry when it comes to Biodiversity?

To see how your Biodiversity stacks up against the industry average, you can benchmark your portfolio score and metric averages here.

What is the relationship to the HowGood Impact Score?

Biodiversity is one of the eight core metrics that make up the HowGood Impact Score. To learn more about the HowGood Impact Score and how Biodiversity influences it, click here.

How do I improve impact as a product developer?

  1. Implement certifications, standards, and/or practices such as Organic, Regenerative Organic, or Land to Market which employ no/low-till practices, reduce or eliminate chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and encourage cover cropping, crop rotation, and rotational grazing.

  2. Change the source location of the ingredient, since certain countries and regions will have stronger protections than others when it comes to the main drivers of biodiversity loss such as deforestation.

  3. If standards and location changes aren't an option, you may need to choose an alternative ingredient. Perennials on average score better than annuals, (unless they have a risk of land-use change, like palm oil). For example, maple syrup has a better biodiversity score than cane sugar or beet sugar.

The underlying principle is this: complexity is good. Having a variety of crops, from a variety of ecosystems is generally better.

Further Resources:

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