Commit to nature restoration in your green Covid-19 recovery plans, businesses urged

Coordinated by Business For Nature and published on Monday (15 June), the call to action has been signed by 31 organizations including CDP, Forum For The Future and UN Global Compact. WWF and the Science Based Targets Network, which are currently part of a collaborative effort to develop a science-based target framework for nature, are also signatories of the open letter.

The letter reiterates the World Economic Forum’s previous research proving that $44trn – more than half of global GDP – is exposed to risks from nature loss, adding that this figure is likely higher now amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. During lockdown, energy use and global emissions have fallen, but the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is reportedly accelerating due to decreased patrols and the fallout of a major oil spill in Russia’s Arctic north continues to be felt.

While businesses and governments have faced mounting calls to “build back better” in terms of decarbonisation, social equality and resource efficiency in recent months, nature has largely been absent from these discussions, the letter implies. It calls on business to help change this trend by scaling up existing nature preservation and restoration action, both within their operations and through their charitable work, and by lobbying for policy changes that would require all organisations to operate in line with nature’s limits.

The chief executives of Danone, Unilever, Natura & Co, AXA, Fosun International and Sintesa Group have all vowed to make these moves. Unilever notably launched a €1bn Climate & Nature Fund, to be spent over the next decade, this week, as part of a string of new sustainability commitments. Natura & Co has also made a major update to its sustainability strategy this week, while Danone recently spoke to edie to argue that this year remains a key one for global efforts to restore and protect nature.

“Nature needs to be at the heart of a healthy and green recovery; it is key to tackling climate change and building a resilient future for both people and the planet,” the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s managing director for food and nature, Diane Holdorf, said.

“Business has a critical role and major incentive in restoring and sustainably managing our ecosystems, and we see that leading companies are already committing and acting to reverse nature loss. But more needs to be done – business needs to take a leading role and incorporate nature action into the core of its business strategy to increase risk-awareness and resilience in business models and supply chains, and ensure that  economic prosperity and restoration of nature go hand in hand.”

Recent research from Business in the Community (BITC) found that just one in ten UK businesses currently class the health of nature as a material issue for their operations.

Seizing the moment

Many in the green economy and beyond were expecting 2020 to be a pivotal year for nature, with key events dotted throughout the calendar.

Among them was the 15th biodiversity COP, which was due to take place in October in China but has now been postponed to 2021. The conference will see attendees develop a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, as the previous framework covers only 2011-2020 and its aims remain broadly unmet.

The framework’s draft plan had already been published, laying out a “Paris Agreement” style series of requirements for nations. In its current form, it commits countries to protect 30% of the planet, introduce controls on invasive species, and reduce pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%. It had broadly been accepted by green groups and world leaders, but only as the minimum requirement.

Delays to this framework and other nature-related events come amid warnings that Earth is hurtling towards its sixth mass extinction, caused largely by habitat destruction and pollution. The World Economic Forum claims that human activity has already wiped out 83% of wild mammals and half of all plants, while IPCC research has found that industrial activity has severely altered three-quarters of ice-free land and two-thirds of marine environments.

Sarah George

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