December 21, 2022

A business perspective on the new Global Biodiversity Framework: the biodiversity sibling of the 2015 Paris Agreement (– or?)

Hooray, good news for nature! On Monday, the long-awaited Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted at COP15. Although, not quite as ambitious and concrete as hoped for by many, and certainly not sufficient to completely reverse biodiversity loss, the deal signed by 196 governments is a critically important step toward tackling the growing biodiversity crisis. To ensure that no empty promises were made, businesses will have an irreplaceable role to play.

Our climate consultant Sebastian Howarth has the following to say about the GBF: “While the framework focuses more on systems change than at the private sector level, it will still be fascinating seeing the impact trickle down. On a macro scale, it is evident that our economic system is reliant on a functioning ecosystem, but what is exciting is that we now have further building blocks for companies to evidence how supporting biodiversity can benefit operations on a micro level.”

But first: what’s the GBF all about?

Arguably, the most significant aspect of the agreement is the commitment to conserve at least 30% of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030, also known as #30×30. Additionally, the GBF calls for a tenfold reduction of extinction risk of all species by 2050, phasing out or reforming subsidies harmful to biodiversity by a minimum of $500 billion per year, mobilising more public and private finance towards biodiversity funding, cutting global food waste in half, protecting indigenous peoples’ rights… The list goes on.

Where companies come into the picture

While the targets are looking promising, the hard work doesn’t stop here – in fact, one might argue that this is where it really begins. Governments and businesses now have to start delivering on the commitments. Large companies and financial institutions are under ‘target 15’ of the agreement expected to monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies, and impacts on biodiversity through their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios.

“Unlike the Paris climate commitments, the requirements are not set in law, but hopefully it will still encourage businesses to act rapidly and with great ambition. Naturally it will take time for voluntary commitments such as the Science Based Targets initiative to align with GBF, but I remain hopeful that this commitment is taking us away from an era of human domination over the natural world and towards a fairer planet for all life to enjoy,” Sebastian comments.

Understood, but why should companies care about biodiversity in the first place?

Business and nature are strongly interconnected – both for the good and the bad. Biodiversity loss poses a major threat to businesses, as according to the World Economic Forum, more than half of the world’s GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature. Companies face not only physical risks in terms of their dependence on depleting resources and deteriorating ecosystems, but also transition risks as a result of potential misalignment of business strategy and emerging regulation, technological developments, and changing consumer preferences. On the flip side, however, the nature-business link comes with an abundance of exciting opportunities. It has for instance been estimated that there are nature-positive business opportunities collectively worth $10 trillion out there, which as a result would generate millions of jobs.

“Many companies focus on a myriad of short-term challenges and still think of biodiversity protection as a luxury. We must update our mindsets and realise that the private sector and the natural world are far more connected than we think,” Sebastian notes.

How companies can start taking action

Sebastian: “It is essential for companies to plant the seed and create an evidenced business case for protecting nature. This may come via a new wave of voluntary reporting; we are, for instance, seeing more and more businesses set science-based targets. The Science Based Targets Network have come out with initial guidance for firms on setting nature-specific targets, and their peers – the Science Based Targets Initiative – recently released a framework for Forestry, Land, and Agriculture. Companies can also prepare for what’s to come by evaluating their impacts and dependencies on nature, as well as assessing their nature-related risks and opportunities and responding to these with the help of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). Currently, only a beta version of the framework exists, with the final version expected to be launched in in September 2023.”

Regardless of any GBF criticisms, one definite outcome is that biodiversity disclosure requirements are solidifying, and companies will need to start preparing to stay ahead of the curve.”

 

For the official GBF press release by the United Nations, see: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2022/12/press-release-nations-adopt-four-goals-23-targets-for-2030-in-landmark-un-biodiversity-agreement/

To read more about the link between the GBF and business, click: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Biodiversity_Targets_for_Business_Action_2022.pdf