Big-name businesses boost nature targets at global conservation congress

A string of businesses are using the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Congress this week as a backdrop for updating biodiversity strategies, with new announcements from the likes of L'Occitane, Walmart, Pernod Ricard and Kering.

Big-name businesses boost nature targets at global conservation congress

Image: Kering/ Fundacion Global Nature

The Congress began on Friday (3 September) in Marseille, France, and will run through to this weekend. It is the largest global annual event on nature conservation and the biggest in-person event on this crucially important topic since Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic last year.

At the event, major French multinational beauty firm L’Occitane Group announced its intention to deliver a net-positive impact on nature by 2025 – a visitation underpinned with a new biodiversity strategy.

The strategy is centred around four principles for intervention: avoiding negative impacts on nature wherever possible; minimising negative impacts where complete elimination is not possible; restoring ecosystems in regions from which materials are sourced and collaborating across the value chain for “collective action”.

L’Occitane Group explained in a statement that the strategy was developed off the back of a biodiversity diagnosis, baselining the company’s impact to date, conducted in partnership with the Science-Based Targets Network. The statement called the strategy “far from a theoretical exercise”, stating that it “reinforces an existing long-term commitment by giving the Group a clear framework of behaviour covering the five key areas of biodiversity loss: land-/sea-use change, resource exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change”.

The new biodiversity strategy builds on the business’s existing commitments to achieve B-Corp certification by 2023 and to achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2030.

Other French businesses making announcements at the IUCN event include Kering Group and Pernod Ricard.

The former has announced the first cohort of seven projects to receive a grant from its ‘Regenerative Fund for Nature’, which was first unveiled in January as part of a partnership between the luxury fashion major and Conservation International. The aim of the fund is to support projects that will collectively transform one million hectares of land to host regenerative practices by 2025. Included in Kering Group’s 2021 cohort for the funding are projects supporting the leather, cotton, wool and cashmere industries across Argentina, France, India, Mongolia, South Africa and Spain.

“Global change always begins at the local level, which is why we’re excited to support grassroots conservation efforts on four continents with Kering under the Regenerative Fund for Nature,” Conservation International’s chief executive Dr Muttulingam Sanjayan said.

As for Pernod Ricard, the alcoholic beverage brand was the first company to sign up to the IUCN;s new ‘Agriculture and Land Health Initiative’, which is designed to bring together actors across the agri-food value chain to develop a shared set of definitions on sustainable agriculture and to promote the need for systems change in the name of environmental sustainability.

The Initiative will convene governments, NGOs, companies, land managers, scientists and ther experts. Pernod Ricard said in a statement that members will benefit from sharing best practice, monitoring their collective impact and encouraging other organisations to set ambitious targets.  

“All our products are closely connected with nature – they take their character, their identity and their quality from the terroirs where they are grown,” Pernod Ricard’s chairman and chief executive Alexandre Ricard said.

“Biodiversity is an essential element to the equilibrium of these ecosystems. Valuing, protecting and conserving it so that we can pass on healthy terroirs to future generations is therefore not only a moral and civic obligation but also a necessity for the future of our Group.”

The commitment builds on an existing pledge to “nurture terroir”, made under a sustainability strategy updated in 2019.  

Going stateside

Also announcing new nature commitments this week is US retail giant Walmart. The business built on a commitment to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 – a move it claims will make it a ‘regenerative company’ – with new measures to reduce negative environmental impacts on its US crop farms.  

The new targets are included in a new Row Crop Position Statement, which has a 2030 deadline. They include:

  • Ensuring that 30 million acres of farms in the Midwest US employ practices that support improved outcomes for soil health, greenhouse gases, water quality and use, biodiversity and farmer livelihoods.
  • Ensuring that least one million of these acres demonstrate multiple measurable regenerative outcomes. 
  • Directly supporting at least 30,000 Midwestern farm operations in the transition to regenerative agriculture
  • Creating a new Sustainable Protein Scaling Initiative, developing a pathway to help farmers adopt emerging crops in a sustainable way
  • Reducing on-farm emissions in the Midwest row crop supply chain by seven million metric tons

Walmart has been working as part of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC), a multi-stakeholder partnership convening retailers, suppliers and non-profits, for five years, and claims that the new Position Statement is an extension of this work.

A statement from Walmart explains: “Our bold row crop ambitions require new ways of farming, and recognize that best practices will vary and depend on the geography farmers are in. That’s why our Row Crop Position Statement emphasizes the need for place-based solutions.

“In practice, this means protecting multiple resources in an area, engaging diverse stakeholders and promoting holistic and innovative strategies for improvement.”

Walmart also confirmed that the carbon reductions due to be delivered as a result of the Position Statement’s initiatives will be accounted for against its target to mitigate one billion tonnes of emissions from supply chains by 2030. This target is called ‘Project Gigaton’.

Sarah George

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