Businesses have an important role to play in tackling climate change through regenerating nature

Last year the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) ended with the adoption of a Global Biodiversity Framework which sets ambitious targets to address biodiversity loss and restore natural ecosystems around the world by 2030. Delivering on the ambition set out in the framework is a huge but necessary goal. Not only is nature a critical ally in the fight against climate change, but a healthy environment has a significant impact on our health and wellbeing.

The theme for Earth Day 2023 (22 April) is ‘Invest in our planet’, with part of the campaign calling on governments, institutions, businesses, and individuals around the world to restore the health of our planet. Nature-based climate solutions have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis – and could provide one third of the solutions needed to stay within the 1.5°C pathway, according to McKinsey and the World Economic Forum.

To leverage this potential, businesses need to not only tackle their own carbon footprint and do ‘less harm’, but also take action to do ‘more good’ through restoring the natural environment. At Bupa, a key part of our sustainability strategy focuses on this idea of doing ‘more good’ by becoming a regenerative business and improving the health of people and planet through the regeneration of nature. We know we don’t have all the answers, but there are a few steps that we believe can help accelerate progress on sustainability ambitions, unite workforces behind a cause that they can personally influence, and also support employee health and wellbeing.

Coalitions and partnerships

Many businesses know by now that tackling climate change is incredibly complex and cannot be done in isolation. Working with others through coalitions and partnerships is critical for sharing ideas and increasing the impact of efforts on a global scale. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s important that all industries take advantage of opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.

For example, there are tools available such as the guiding principles shared by We Mean Business Coalition, in partnership with Exponential Roadmap Initiative and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research on investing in nature-based solutions. There are also sector or industry-specific platforms too. In healthcare, for example, Bupa, along with Forum for the Future, Reckitt, Haleon and Walgreens Boots Alliance established the Climate and Health Coalition which aims is speed up the integrated transformation of our health and climate systems – and recently, the coalition published guidance which explores the intersection of biodiversity and nature with climate and health.

Healthy Cities

Cities are a key contributor to climate change, as urban activities are major sources of carbon emissions They’re also home to more than half of the world’s population, a figure that is projected to rise to 68% by 2050. Investing in the natural environment can help cut carbon emissions, and also improve physical and mental wellbeing – this is highlighted by research from the University of Exeter which shows exposure to green spaces can reduce the risk of conditions and diseases such as type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stress.

As part of our efforts to recognise this link between climate, nature and our health, we’re rolling out our Healthy Cities programme globally to support one million people each year by 2025 to improve their health through nature restoration projects. The initiative encourages Bupa employees, customers, partners and communities to adopt healthy, long-term habits, by completing health challenges set via our Healthy Cities app. In return for completing activities, we are investing in the regeneration of green spaces around the world.

The power of individual actions

The latest IPCC report called out the role of humanity in mitigating climate change for the first time, calculating that ‘behaviour and sociocultural’ changes could rapidly save 5% of all demand side carbon emissions – this would be a gamechanger for climate ambitions.

From a business perspective, harnessing an entire workforce towards tackling a common challenge will help accelerate progress on sustainability goals. Identifying an area that resonates with people and that they can feel empowered to take action on – and also see the outcome of their efforts – can have a significant impact.

People who participated in our Healthy Cities programme last year achieved over five billion steps which resulted in more than 93,000 trees planted across Spain, Poland and Mexico in collaboration with NGOs and government organisations. This investment included supporting the restoring of damaged ecosystems due to forest fires, planting new trees to regenerate forests and protecting regions from desertification. We recognise that this is just the start. By rolling this programme out across all our regions this year, we’re hoping to build on this impact, helping to improve both the health of those that participate and the green spaces in the cities they live in.

Invest in our planet

Earth Day this year is an opportunity for businesses to take stock of the progress they’re making on their climate ambitions and recognise the benefits of integrating positive actions to repair damage to the environment into sustainability strategies. The clock is ticking and there is a lot of work to do to meet the COP15 commitments by 2030 and unlock the potential of nature-based solutions – we must act now but we believe that by working effectively together we can do it. Onwards!

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie