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Euroviews. Business must lead on safeguarding nature

World's biodiversity and business, illustration
World's biodiversity and business, illustration Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Akanksha Khatri
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

On World Biodiversity Day, a call on corporates to scale-up positive action, World Economic Forum's Akanksha Khatri writes.

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Nature underpins our global economy with over half of the world’s total GDP — $44 trillion (€40.6tr) — moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and, as a result, at risk of imminent disruption due to exposure to drivers of nature loss.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 warns that environmental risks make up half of the top 10 risks over the next decade, ranking biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse together as the third biggest global risk.

Pivoting away from business as usual is not a “good thing to have” but critical for human well-being and economic prosperity. Our research shows that investing in nature could unlock $10tr (€9.2tr) of business opportunities annually and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

The theme of 22 May, the UN’s annual International Day for Biological Diversity, is “Be part of the Plan” and is an explicit recognition that everyone — governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, businesses and individuals — must collaborate in creating a nature-positive future.

The UN Biodiversity Plan lays out 4 goals and 23 global targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and put the world back on track to live in harmony with nature. 

While the onus is on governments to create the right policy mechanisms and incentives for these goals to be met, it is notable that several of the targets call out the role of business. 

For example, Target 15 calls out for disclosures by businesses on their nature-related impacts and dependencies.

Indeed, this is no longer a matter of choice, given the rapid and unparalleled biodiversity loss we are facing. Nearly 2 million species are at risk of extinction driven by the human activity which results in habitat loss and degradation. 

Climate change is altering the earth’s ecosystems — and the biodiversity they contain — with the risk of species extinction increasing with every degree of warming.

Nature loss significantly impacts supply chains and puts company assets at risk, disrupting business models. Customers, investors, and regulators alike are now growingly expecting corporates to set credible strategies towards a net-zero, nature-positive, and socially equitable future.

A sectoral approach

The operations of four significant value chains — energy, food, infrastructure and fashion — drive more than 90% of man-made pressure on biodiversity. 

However, while half of the world’s biggest companies are committed to net zero, there is far less recognition of the importance of biodiversity loss. Only 5% of Fortune Global 500 companies have targets on nature.

Each industrial sector has its own distinct dependencies on the natural world, different interactions with it, and different impacts on it. Without swift action to reduce pressure on nature and mitigate the impacts of business operations, it will be impossible to turn the tide.

In fashion, for example, producing a single pair of jeans can involve using several thousand litres of water. The chemicals sector also relies on vast amounts of freshwater but releases hazardous waste into water, air, and soil.
A model walks at the fashion show featuring recycled materials at Kronprinzenpalais during Berlin Fashion Week, July 2023
A model walks at the fashion show featuring recycled materials at Kronprinzenpalais during Berlin Fashion Week, July 2023Gerald Matzka/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten

In fashion, for example, producing a single pair of jeans can involve using several thousand litres of water. The chemicals sector also relies on vast amounts of freshwater but releases hazardous waste into water, air, and soil. 

In the built environment, the production of concrete alone means extracting more than 50 billion tonnes of sand every year from the natural environment.

Let’s not forget that biodiversity loss and climate change are inherently interlinked and need to be tackled together. Our ability to effectively mitigate climate change also risks being severely compromised, given that the ocean and land have absorbed more than half of the world’s carbon emissions over the past decade, according to the IPCC. 

Nature-based solutions can provide over a third of the emissions reductions required to keep global warming below 2°C.

There can, therefore, be no Net Zero without Nature.

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A roadmap for business

For swift and positive results, each industrial sector must recognise the intrinsic value of nature to its operations, understand its dependencies on the natural world, and take quick and effective steps to reduce its impacts.

It is ambitious but possible, and across every sector, there are examples of companies already leading the way.

We at the World Economic Forum, together with colleagues at Business for Nature and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, have developed accessible and concrete guidance for 12 global sectors. 

The guidance lays out specific, actionable steps for businesses in each sector and is illustrated with examples of constructive leadership.

The sector-specific priority actions that companies should take provide a basis for building a nature-positive business strategy.
A concrete cylinder is removed after being tested for compressive strength at a facility in San Jose, CA, April 2024
A concrete cylinder is removed after being tested for compressive strength at a facility in San Jose, CA, April 2024AP Photo/Benjamin Fanjoy

For example, the cement and concrete guidance highlights that by prioritising water management, emissions reductions, land stewardship, circularity practices and innovation, the sector could unlock $44bn (€40.6bn) per year of additional value by 2030 and ensure it contributes to a nature-positive future.

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The sector-specific priority actions that companies should take provide a basis for building a nature-positive business strategy. Through a new Nature Strategy Handbook, the It’s Now for Nature campaign encourages businesses and financial institutions to set a credible nature strategy. 

Businesses that do this stand to boost their resilience, access new opportunities, create long-term value and strengthen their climate and sustainability goals.

A nature-positive future

As countries prepare for the next UN biodiversity summit — COP16 — in Colombia later this year, they will be taking stock of the progress made since the adoption of landmark Biodiversity Plan in 2022 by 196 countries, otherwise known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

We are now beyond calling on businesses to act. The resources are out there, and comprehensive support is available. 

Now is the time for business and finance, key drivers of the global economy, to collaborate and build alliances, transform their operations, reduce the pressure on nature, and ultimately restore and regenerate the natural world. It’s Now for Nature. 

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Akanksha Khatri is Head of Nature and Biodiversity at the World Economic Forum.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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