Why biodiversity matters to your business after COP15
January 25, 2023
January 25, 2023
The COP15 conference resulted in a new global biodiversity goal and targets. Here is our take on how this affects business and sustainability planning.
António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, recently opened the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Quebec, with this three-sentence warning:
Without nature, we have nothing.
Without nature, we are nothing.
Nature is our life-support system.
This warning was not just for environmentalists but also for leaders in government, businesses, and finance. COP15 drew world leaders to Montreal to approve a framework to address biodiversity loss. Unlike past meetings, the role of the private sector—investors, businesses, and industry representatives—was large.
And for good reason. Biodiversity is connected to our food security, climate resilience, supply chains, air quality, and water quality. Companies are now paying closer attention to biodiversity. Their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures are starting to require it.
No longer is biodiversity only a topic of David Attenborough documentaries (of which we are big fans!). It is now an agenda item for investors and corporate boards.
Biodiversity represents all life on Earth. On the final day of COP15, the conference adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This document lays out global biodiversity goals and action targets. Efforts not only achieve a “no-net-loss” of biodiversity but work toward a “net-positive impact.”
Among the targets:
To do this, the framework urges businesses and investors to disclose their risks, dependencies, and impacts on biodiversity. Those include the full company supply chains.
These targets pose a new challenge to businesses and leaders. How do businesses respond to this call for an enhanced nature-based focus? How should businesses consider and show how they affect species and habitats? How does a business describe how they contribute a net-positive impact on nature without “greenwashing”?
Protecting biodiversity poses challenges of scale and complexity. It’s much like the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.
One challenge is getting the right data. As the adage goes, “what gets measured, gets done.” Sadly, consistent and reliable data on biodiversity is not available for much of the world. Where data is available, companies often need specialized knowledge to interpret and apply it.
A second challenge is tailoring global targets to company plans and local action. The Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures aids this approach. It is one of the most widely accepted frameworks for biodiversity planning. It encourages companies to understand their local interface with biodiversity, its impacts on their business, and how to decide proper actions.
Companies need to define connections between their footprint and measurable actions to improve biodiversity. This often begins by looking at the following:
Answering these questions requires input from diverse viewpoints. It brings together knowledge and awareness of company operations with biodiversity global targets. And it can create profound actions.
Protecting biodiversity poses challenges of scale and complexity.
There are several ways that biodiversity losses pose added cost and risks to businesses. They include the following risks.
Other types of risks may exist as well. Understanding these risks, disclosing company exposure to them, and planning actions to address these concerns can protect a company.
Companies can disclose their biodiversity impacts in two ways. One is formal reporting using established ESG frameworks. Other companies might opt for an informal approach through corporate annual reporting, company websites, or social media. No matter the option, the journey to improved biodiversity reporting requires businesses to educate their leaders and begin proactive planning.
At Stantec, we are helping companies on this journey. We help them understand the rewards of incorporating biodiversity in their ESG portfolios—and the risks of not including it. Our team has developed biodiversity programs across the renewable energy industry. Our ecologists and planners support some of the largest utilities in the US with technical advice to navigate this new world of biodiversity disclosures and corporate strategic planning. We’ve also helped businesses add value through Nature-based Solutions.
In addition to planning, our team also brings specialists that support on-the-ground fulfillment. As a partner in the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we are taking part in global solutions to restoring biodiversity and ecosystems. That might include improving diversity through vegetation management. Or perhaps revegetating with native plants from our nursery in Indiana.
No society or business works independent of nature. Biodiversity underpins our lives and businesses. All actions are positive or negative. The challenge for all of us is to recognize those connections. Then we make thoughtful choices to protect and restore biodiversity. In doing so, we help ensure the resources we have always relied upon will be there for future generations.
Together, we can turn the boardroom discussions into actions that would make David Attenborough proud. And they strengthen our global life-support system, too.