Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the role they play in helping to protect the planet. The focus so far has primarily been on reducing carbon emissions, motivated by national and international targets around 'net zero' and supported by the relative ease of measuring these emissions.
However, businesses will be called on to protect the planet in ways that go beyond climate change. Not only is our world getting warmer, it’s also suffering from unprecedented loss of natural habitats and living species.
When the term 'habitat loss' is mentioned, our minds instantly picture faraway locations like the Amazon rainforest or the Serengeti, places where naturalists like David Attenborough have long captured the public's interest with stunning scenes of wild animals, alongside increasingly alarming warnings over the threats to their survival – but habitat loss is a global issue, and the UK is not immune to this.
According to a study by London's Natural History Museum, the UK has lost almost half its natural biodiversity since the Industrial Revolution, more than almost anywhere else in western Europe.
Supporting and sustaining biodiversity is not just important for the content it provides for nature documentaries; it is crucial to maintain the global ecosystem which we rely on for our food, water and medicine. Every species we lose increases the risk of further loss, leading to a downward spiral of decline.
The world is finally waking up to this risk. The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December 2022 ended with a landmark agreement to halt and reverse nature loss. The UK actually already had a legal target in place, the first of its kind across the world, and launched a five-year delivery plan to meet this target last week.
You already have a net zero plan, but is your business nature-positive?
Encouragingly 'The Nature of Business' survey and report by CBI Economics, in collaboration with the University of Exeter, found that many businesses have already started their biodiversity journey.
There is relatively broad awareness around the topic of biodiversity/nature, and most business leaders understand they have a role to play beyond what is legally required of them. A majority of respondents noted their firms already had a plan to support biodiversity/nature, including around half of SMEs, with most of these plans discussed at board room level.
Despite this positive outlook, there’s still work to be done. The complexity of the topic of biodiversity/nature, and a lack of understanding are still barriers to businesses developing sustainability plans. Firms need to learn more about the opportunities in becoming nature-positive – from an improved reputation, better business opportunities, new creative products and services or the resource efficiency and resilience that would come from using less scarce natural resources.
The government can also do more by promoting funding/finance for nature-positive projects and providing more guidance – and firms don't need to tackle this issue alone.
Finding support: these networks are ready to help your business
Various frameworks have been created to support firms through their journeys, such as the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, Climate Disclosure Standards Board's reporting framework and the Global Reporting Initiative.
In addition, organisations such as the UK Business & Biodiversity Forum and Get Nature Positive provide guidance through best practice sharing and toolkits, while the University of Exeter Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach’ (RENEW) project will develop new tools and standards for embedding biodiversity renewal in finance and business activities.
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