Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. According to The Living Planet Index, since 1970, there has been a 70% decline in the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
Over the past 50 years, nature has declined more extensively than ever in human history, with species disappearing at 1,000 times the natural extinction rate. We are facing the sixth great extinction, with up to 1 million species threatened. As the world faces increasing environmental degradation due to climate change, deforestation, habitat destruction, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution, it has become critical to prioritise the protection and restoration of biodiversity, both for our planet and for us, the people living on it.
Without nature, we have nothing. Without nature, we are nothing.”
-António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
Though the idea of restoring biodiversity might conjure up images of lush, green rainforests (the world’s oldest ecosystem) or thriving tropical reef life, we must remember to look closer to home when considering solutions to the problem because the UK is no exception to the staggering loss of nature. In fact, the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, according to the Natural History Museum Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), with about half (53%) of its biodiversity remaining. Note 90% is considered the “safe limit” to prevent tipping into an “ecological meltdown”, according to researchers, so it is essential that we all act now to protect, repair, and restore the natural environment.
〉Since the 1930s, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows, drastically reducing pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
〉Nearly 60% of UK species are in decline, and one in seven face extinction.
〉In the past 50 years, the UK has lost more than 40% of its native species.
As we face the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, companies must understand this impact on their business and the actions they can take to reduce their impact and to protect and restore the natural environment.
| Four ways businesses can become nature positive and contribute to a world worth living in:
- Awareness: Understand the impact of biodiversity loss:
The first step toward becoming nature positive is to fully understand the impact biodiversity loss has on your company and the reciprocal impact your company has on nature. This concept, known as ‘double materiality’, recognises that many companies are increasingly impacted by nature loss, and many companies create nature loss. Part of the issue is that the planet’s health is not on anyone’s balance sheet, though it should be. According to S&P Global, 8 in ten of the world’s largest companies depend significantly on nature across their direct operations, while new research from PwC finds that over half of the world’s GDP – the equivalent of £58trillion – is exposed to the material, natural risk without immediate action.
To understand your business’s impact on nature, conduct comprehensive assessments of your manufacturing processes, product life cycles, and supply chains. This analysis will help identify potential areas of improvement, such as reducing waste, managing water usage, and sourcing sustainable materials. By understanding your company’s specific challenges, you can develop targeted strategies for change.
- Align: Embrace industry frameworks and standards
Companies must align their efforts with industry frameworks and standards to address biodiversity loss and contribute to a sustainable future. The Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) are two prominent examples of initiatives providing guidance and accountability for businesses’ sustainability endeavours.
TNFD helps companies identify, assess, and manage risks and opportunities associated with nature-related issues. They can then respond by reviewing their strategy and operations and disclosing them to the financial markets. For example, Tesco and WWF-UK launched a project to understand how retailers can track and measure biodiversity in complex global supply chains across different food products, supporting Tesco and other retailers’ set ambitions with SBTN for nature and disclosure under TNFD.
- Action: Adopt a circular economy approach
Transitioning to a circular economy is essential in reducing a company’s negative impact on nature. By designing products and processes prioritising reuse, regeneration and recycling, you can minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency. Gartner predicts that by 2026, 60% of global enterprises will drive profitable growth through circular supply chain practices, reduce their environmental footprint, and contribute to preserving nature.
Businesses should focus on three key principles:
〉Designing for durability and recyclability.
〉Embracing product life extension strategies.
〉Promoting closed-loop systems.
This may involve using recycled materials or implementing ‘take-back’ programs for products at the end of their life cycle. For example, less than 1% of the materials used to make clothes get recycled each year. This means that thousands of tonnes of textiles end up in landfills. Fortunately, big businesses have already started adopting the closed-loop system approach. H&M has a Recycle Your Clothes program encourages customers to bring their old and used clothing, no matter the condition, so that it can be repurposed. By adopting these practices, companies can reduce waste, conserve resources, and reduce their negative impact on nature.
- Accelerate: Invest in natural capital and biodiversity credits
Once a company has avoided and reduced its negative impact on nature, it can in natural capital to restore and regenerate to accelerate their journey toward becoming nature positive. Natural capital refers to the stocks of natural resources and ecosystems that provide humans with a wide range of goods and services, including clean air and water, food, timber, and recreation opportunities.
‘The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe – it all comes from nature.’
By investing in projects that protect and restore natural ecosystems, companies can help mitigate the negative impacts of their operations and contribute to a world worth living in. By purchasing biodiversity credits, companies can actively support efforts to preserve biodiversity and restore ecosystems, effectively balancing their impacts.
For example, Plymouth City Council and the National Marine Park have created various nature restoration projects from ‘source to sea’, such as peatland restoration, community forest initiatives, wetland restoration, and sustainable urban drainage systems. Allowing companies to actively contribute to reversing habitat degradation, mitigating climate change, and enhancing water quality. Furthermore, investing in restoring kelp, saltmarshes, and seagrass ecosystems within the Plymouth National Marine Park corporations supports the revival of critical marine habitats. These investments deliver positive ecological outcomes and foster a more sustainable and resilient future for both local communities and the planet.
To build a sustainable future and contribute to a world worth living in, companies must embrace their responsibility to become nature positive. By following the four key steps outlined above – awareness, alignment, action, and acceleration – businesses can make meaningful progress in mitigating their impact on biodiversity loss and the impact biodiversity has on their business. All for one and one for all.
Let’s act now to embed people, the planet and place into everything we do and create a world worth living in.
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| brief bio
Robert Gardner is a money expert, entrepreneur, and financial activist on a mission to make money a force for good for people and the planet to create ‘financial wellbeing in a world worth living in’.
As a father of two, Rob understands the importance of financial education and long-term financial freedom. His life’s work has been to make money relatable and easy to understand, helping empower financial literacy in everyone from primary school children to pensioners.
In 2012 Rob co-founded RedSTART, a financial education charity which aims to plant the seeds for the financial freedom of young people. In 2016 he wrote the children’s book Save Your Acorns to help make conversations about money an ongoing part of family life. In addition, he has delivered a TEDx talk on financial education among young people titled, ‘If You Leave Your Children One Thing, Make It This…’ He is regularly asked to speak about making money a force for good, having appeared on, or been invited to comment in, BBC Radio, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Good Housekeeping magazine, The FT, Sky News, The Times, etc.
In 2006, Rob shook up the UK’s pensions market with the launch of Redington. Now a leading investment consultancy whose mission is to create financial wellbeing for 100 million people in a way that protects the planet’s future. Having studied Geography at the University of Oxford, Rob’s love of glaciers and passion for the planet’s prosperity have heavily influenced his role in financial services. Responsible investment and using his position and expertise to drive better businesses for the earth and its people was a crucial part of his previous role as St. James’s Place’s (SJP) Director of Investments. In addition, Rob is a member of the World Economic Forum and sits on their retirement council.
Rob is now a co-founder of Rebalance Earth, whose goal is to make money a force for good to help reverse climate change and biodiversity loss. By creating high-integrity biodiversity credits. That puts a monetary value on nature based on its ability to absorb carbon, protect, and grow biodiversity, and support local communities that preserve it. Companies buy these credits as the most effective, quick, and verifiable way of being nature positive and achieving net zero.
| All opinions expressed are those of the author and/or quoted sources. investESG.eu is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around ESG investing topics.