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Beyond carbon: new framework brings biodiversity impact into focus

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Biodiversity loss, Healthy Ecosystems and Ecosystem Collapse

With over half the world’s GDP being dependent on properly-functioning biodiversity, businesses are now waking up to the immense reliance they place on nature, and are leaning towards operating beyond carbon.

And whilst most organisations understand the need for ambitious climate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse climate breakdown very few have yet focussed on reducing the unprecedented (and accelerating) rate of biodiversity loss.

We rely on healthy ecosystems not only for our health and wellbeing but for everything we need or want.  For a long time the western industrial relationship with nature has been based on dominance; a ‘take’ relationship on a massive scale. It is now widely recognised that we are very much indebted to a system that simply can’t cope with the pressures being asked of it.

Ecosystem collapse poses significant risks to economic systems survival (therefore the companies within them), whereas investing in nature-positive solutions and regenerative practices can lead to innovation, resilience, positive publicity and competitive advantage.

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The rise of Climate Litigation 

In addition to there being a clear business case to act, increased scrutiny can put brands at risk of consumer backlash and even litigation if they are found to be acting irresponsibly, either directly or within their supply chains.

The rise of climate litigation following the Paris Agreement (often funded by third parties to put pressure on corporates) demonstrates a trend for direct action, which is being used to bring issues to light, force change, push for stronger environmental regulations, and hold responsible parties accountable. We can expect to see the same happening in the wake of last year’s Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (the Kunming-Montreal Agreement) at COP15 (when it was agreed legally to protect at least 30% of global biospheres by 2030.)

Guidance is at hand – Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN)

Thankfully, the new Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN) framework has been launched to help businesses assess their impact on nature and set targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, in much the same way as its carbon counterpart the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) does.

Erin Billman, executive director of SBTN, said: “We are in the midst of interconnected crises. We cannot limit global warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels] without addressing nature loss, and we cannot halt and reverse nature loss without a stable climate. The most recent assessment of biodiversity commitments by the world’s largest 100 companies found that only 10 had explicit biodiversity commitments.”

Understanding Biodiversity Impacts and Target Setting

SBTN has a route for both SMEs and larger organisations to follow. In addition there is a great deal of guidance in terms of understanding biodiversity impacts and target setting.

The SBTN recommends the following steps to be taken:

  • Understand how your business impacts nature throughout the values chain
  • Understand what data you will need to gather to assess your baseline
  • Assess all the data you have gathered, using guidance available
  • Prioritise areas for action
  • Take Action
  • Track and report on your progress

There is increasing stakeholder pressure on companies to disclose their impact on nature and a clear stance now will be essential going forward.

This is especially the case in light of likely developments in regulation: SBTN is aligned with the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework, which will be launched later this year (a welcome new addition to the spaghetti soup of sustainability reporting acronyms).

TNFD has been formulated to address the impact of business on nature and biodiversity. Like its counterpart the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the TNFD will require companies to disclose information related to their dependence and impact on nature, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. This includes reporting on factors such as land use, deforestation, water usage, pollution, and biodiversity conservation efforts.

The precise reporting requirements and timelines are yet to be finalised, as TNFD is currently in the consultation phase. However, it is anticipated that TNFD reporting will become mandatory in the coming years, similar to the trajectory of TCFD.

Last Word on Biodiversity

Of course, everything we’ve described above is thrown into sharp relief when you look at how those outside the dominant industrial system manage their relationships with nature. 80% of the world’s biodiversity exists on lands managed by Indigenous peoples and research has found it to be declining more slowly in those areas. This is hardly surprising – these are cultures that have never lost the connection between humans and their biosphere; their societies are characterised by guardianship, not ownership. By relationship with nature, not dominance over it.

The rest of us need to see Indigenous custodians of land as the keepers of the wisdom we need to dig ourselves out of the crisis.

At Greenheart, we are committed to protecting, nurturing and learning from nature.

We know that a better and more interdependent relationship with our biosphere is essential if we are to address global challenges that we face and make the global economy fit for the future. So we are very happy to welcome this new framework and are excited to support our clients to integrate it into their impact strategies.

If you would like to be among the first to measure and manage your company’s impacts on biodiversity, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Further resources

https://sciencebasedtargetsnetwork.org/resources/

https://framework.tnfd.global/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/23-23882-TNFD_v0.4_Short_Summary_v5.pdf

https://iifb-indigenous.org/2022/12/19/indigenous-peoples-and-local-communities-celebrate-cop15-deal-on-nature-and-welcome-the-opportunity-of-working-together-with-states-to-implement-the-framework/

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