How is biodiversity linked to business?

Sophie Harbert

Sophie Harbert

Net zero strategies including reducing greenhouse gas emissions have already become key priorities for businesses looking for longevity. Now you may begin to hear about biodiversity reporting and wonder why it should be part of your ESG approach.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is defined as the ‘variety and variability of all life on Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria and microorganisms, and humans.’ This variety in nature helps facilitate ecosystem services that are vital for our survival such as oxygen production, plant pollination, and water filtration.

Despite being the last thing on your mind while sat at a desk in a city office block, nature and business are intrinsically linked. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), ‘50% of the global economy is under threat from biodiversity loss,’ making it essential now more than ever that we act and are accountable for our impacts. Human-led depletion of nature is creating a biodiversity crisis, ranked as the ‘third most severe threat humanity will face in the next 10 years‘ by the WEF’s 2022 Global Risks Report. 

The December 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) saw global governments coming together to form the landmark Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), with targets for 2030 such as ‘protect 30% of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas, inland waters; reduce by $500 billion annual harmful government subsidies and cut food waste in half.’ To achieve this, we will need to see drastic action from governments, and corporations will soon be required to assess, monitor, and disclose the impact of their operations and supply chains on biodiversity. 

Business impacts

Biodiversity is incorporated in most value chains in the global economy. It provides regulating services (e.g. carbon sequestration), provisioning services (resources like food, timber, medicinal inputs), habitats and cultural services (heritage, education, and tourism). Four industries — food, infrastructure and mobility, energy, and fashion — are predicted to account for roughly 90% of biodiversity loss. This impact comes from human pressures on natural environments and activities like deforestation, overfishing, monoculture farming, increased chemical use, pollution, and land-use change. Global warming is both a cause and resulting factor of biodiversity change.

Increasing legislation such as the EU’s deforestation law and the High Seas Treaty are steps in the right direction, and changes put into place will affect businesses operations. While the COP15 GBF is not yet legally binding, there is a push for it to be in the future — regulations and policies will need to change in order to achieve the 2030 targets.

As biodiversity is moving up the regulatory agenda and with the UN International Day for Biological Diversity coming up on 22nd May, now is the time to begin investigating your nature-related dependencies and impacts, and putting into place a biodiversity policy or position statement. A number of pioneering companies have begun to set science-based biodiversity targets and are using frameworks such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) as part of robust strategies and reporting aligned with biodiversity preservation. Early movers in this space will more likely benefit from new business opportunities and improved standing with customers and investors, as well as future proofing their supply chains from disruption.

If you currently rely on carbon offsetting schemes, it is vital to ensure these are helping to restore native plants since species-rich forests have been found to store twice as much carbon as monocultures.

Creating change in the UK

The UK has been named ‘one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries — in the bottom 10% globally and last amongst the G7 nations,’ with only around half its biodiversity left (below the global average of 75%). Sir David Attenborough has warned that ‘nature is in crisis‘ and hopes to raise awareness through the Save Our Wild Isles campaign. We can only hope this will help to accelerate as much change and interest as Blue Planet did for plastic pollution.

There is no doubt that more needs to be done to support organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) as well as working to avoid preventable occurrences such as the recent Poole Harbour oil spill which affected the wildlife haven of Brownsea Island. In order to reverse the decline of global biodiversity we need to work together to create a ‘nature positive economy‘. To prosper, businesses will need to take full accountability for their true impacts on the planet.

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