An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 45):

"Biodiversity—a catch-all term for the spectrum of plant and animal life around us—preserves our food chain and the ecosystems on which all life depends. It also holds the prospects of new drugs, foods, and other products derived from newly discovered species. By its very nature, biodiversity is hard to measure, but it’s increasingly considered a critical natural resource that society must manage like any other...How serious is the problem of biodiversity loss? The U.N.’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment affirmed one scientific hypothesis: The extinction rate is now as much as 1,000 times higher than the average rate over Earth’s history."

The Science

A large number of government organizations and NGOs track this issue closely. Measuring the exact nature of biodiversity is devilishly hard -- keep in mind that nobody even knows how many species there are in the world. But increasingly scientists are convinced that the rapid increase in the rate of loss of species is real and worrisome. A few sites to check out:

Business response and resources

While in theory biodiversity affects everyone and every industry, only a handful of companies have publicly made a sizable effort on this front. Not surprisingly the most action is in the extractive industries -- the oil and mining companies that are facing the most questions about how they affect natural habitats. For example, a few years after creating a position focused on climate change, Shell added a person to concentrate exclusively on biodiversity issues. See the following examples of how companies think about this thorny issue: