Imagine going to your favorite source of business news and finding the following stories:
- One of the world’s largest tech companies declared a goal to become "nature positive."
- The head of the world’s second-most populous country called for global cooperation to preserve biodiversity.
- A global agreement was signed to protect the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.
- Nature-dependent companies are hiring a head of traceability to verify and substantiate sustainability claims.
- A global framework for companies to report their biodiversity impacts is closer to launch.
If you were to see those headlines, you’d likely think the world is finally coming to value and address the role nature and biodiversity play in the global economy and in human health and well-being, right?
Well, all those stories appeared in just the past few weeks:
- Salesforce introduced a Nature Positive Strategy, focusing on reducing its impacts on nature, leading nature restoration at scale and helping Salesforce customers become "nature positive," too.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an international alliance to protect biodiversity, saying, "Our future is safe when nature is safe."
- Nearly 200 nations last month reached a historic agreement to protect the world's oceans, placing 30 percent of the seas into protected areas by 2030 to safeguard and recuperate marine ecosystems.
- A new paper from Planet Tracker noted the rise of head of traceability positions inside companies, tapping into sustainability, information technology, product development, sourcing, legal, logistics and marketing functions.
- The Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosure (TNFD) released a final draft of its proposed framework, detailing how firms should report on evolving nature-related risks, ahead of its final publication in September.
Welcome to the intersecting worlds of business and biodiversity, where nature truly meets the bottom line. Although it’s still early days, there’s a fast-mounting wave of interest and activity in addressing how companies contribute to species loss and habitat degradation and destruction, as well as the growing efforts to turn that around.
Welcome to the intersecting worlds of business and biodiversity.
Much of this is driven by a growing understanding that business needs nature to grow and thrive. As a result, some leadership companies are going well beyond simply doing less harm, setting a goal of eventually becoming "nature positive," an admittedly vague, aspirational term that nonetheless is finding its way into corporate communications.
All of this is a blossoming topic at GreenBiz, where we’ve just announced our newest annual event: Bloom, focusing on business and biodiversity. The inaugural event takes place Oct. 24-25 in San Jose, California (alongside, but separate from, our VERGE 23 conference).
"The accelerating loss of biodiversity and ecosystems is equally existential as the climate crisis but has not received respective attention from business leaders and policymakers," my friend and colleague, Theresa Lieb, who’s organizing Bloom and leads GreenBiz’s food and nature strategy, explained. "With this event, we’re hoping to raise awareness of the issue and empower professionals to collaboratively develop solutions."
While Lieb’s Bloom 23 agenda is still in development, it is likely to cover a range of hot-button issues, among them:
- How companies can assess, manage and communicate their impacts on the natural world.
- The market and financial mechanisms that can incentivize nature-positive practices.
- How investors view biodiversity impacts as a portfolio risk.
- How businesses are engaging with their suppliers, local communities and Indigenous groups and other key stakeholders to foster a biodiverse and just world.
- New policies and regulations influencing business action on nature and how companies can contribute to the policy process.
- Resources and innovations companies can draw on to protect and regenerate nature.
These are among the challenges and opportunities companies and investors will face in the coming months and years, as the topic of business and biodiversity gains increased attention. These are also the topics that a growing number of proactive firms already are beginning to address.
It’s admittedly an emerging field, akin to where corporate carbon measurement and mitigation was roughly a decade ago. Over the subsequent years, thousands of companies have leaned into carbon management — either voluntarily or based on pressures from investors, customers and policymakers. Measuring and mitigating carbon emissions and setting net-zero goals are still emerging disciplines, but the early adopters are, as a rule, further ahead. "Scope 3" has gone from nerdy carbon jargon to a term of art.
I suspect we’ll see a similar trajectory when it comes to managing natural capital and mitigating biodiversity risks. And companies that already are managing their carbon emissions will likely have an advantage in taking on biodiversity, which builds on similar internal policies and processes: understanding a company’s footprint; creating a plan to address it; engaging suppliers and other stakeholders; forming partnerships and communicating progress. The aforementioned TNFD, for example, focuses on the same four pillars as the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD): governance; strategy; risk management; and metrics and targets. Companies already experienced with TCFD reporting should have an easier time complying with the nature-related version.
Of course, it’s not just about reporting or about reducing one’s negative impact: There’s a sizable business opportunity here. Technologies such as satellite rainforest monitoring, tree-planting drones and carbon-credit trading software are a "burgeoning market opportunity" for nature-based solutions, according to a report released last year. Another study said that nature-based markets, including agriculture, voluntary carbon credits, conservation projects and nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration, already could be worth more than $7 trillion a year.
All of this is helping boost the number of corporate jobs focused on preserving and regenerating nature, including heads of traceability.
Indeed, there will be few industries untouched by biodiversity issues: Food and agriculture, obviously, are at the top of the list of affected sectors, but also others, from oil and gas and chemicals to retail and tourism. Nature, it seems, is a critical asset for many companies, even if they don’t yet realize it.
Thanks for reading. You can find my past articles here. Also, I invite you to follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn, subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz, from which this was reprinted, and listen to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.