Navigating the biodiversity crisis: a call to action for businesses

In an era marked by alarming statistics of biodiversity loss and the urgent need for environmental stewardship, businesses stand at the forefront of driving transformative change towards sustainability. From embracing reporting frameworks to fostering nature literacy within organisations, businesses can pave the way for protecting nature while ensuring long-term resilience and success, says John Miller at Curlew Action

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Since 1970, the World Wide Fund for Nature has reported a staggering loss of 68% of our vertebrate wildlife, while the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services suggests that approximately one million species may have been lost during this period. While humanity has prospered immensely in recent decades, the ways in which we have achieved such prosperity have come at a devastating cost to nature. Estimates of our total impact on nature suggest that we would require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current consumption levels.

The urgency of protecting biodiversity

Human activities such as agriculture, urban development and infrastructure expansion have led to widespread habitat loss and fragmentation, driving many species towards extinction. This loss of habitat not only directly affects the species living within those ecosystems but also disrupts entire food webs and ecosystem functions, leading to cascading impacts on biodiversity and human wellbeing.

While climate change often dominates discussions around environmental issues, it is crucial to recognise that habitat destruction and degradation are equally pressing concerns in terms of their impacts on maintaining a healthy thriving planet – if not even more immediate.

Integrated strategies: biodiversity and climate change

Efforts to address biodiversity loss must go hand in hand with climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Protecting and restoring natural habitats, such as meadows, wetlands and forests, provides essential refuge for threatened species and contributes to carbon sequestration, water purification and flood mitigation.

Even conserving specific individual endangered species can have broader benefits for entire ecosystems, as many species play key roles in maintaining ecological balance and resilience.

Efforts to address biodiversity loss must go hand in hand with climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies

Recognising this urgency of protecting biodiversity alongside addressing climate change is crucial for achieving sustainable development and ensuring our planet’s long-term health and resilience. It requires a holistic approach that considers the complex interactions between ecosystems, biodiversity, climate and human wellbeing.


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How to be a nature-positive business:

10 steps to boost biodiversity To tackle the biodiversity and business-related challenges and opportunities outlined in this article, businesses should consider the following actions:

  1. Recognise the importance of biodiversity: Understand that biodiversity is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems, human wellbeing and economic activities, including those of your business.
  2. Assess your impact on nature: Evaluate how your company’s operations and supply chains may contribute to biodiversity loss or conservation. Identify specific areas where your activities may have the most impact.
  3. Take proactive measures to improve your company’s environmental performance and reduce biodiversity-related risks.
  4. Adopt reporting frameworks: Consider adopting reporting frameworks such as the TCFD and TNFD. These enhance transparency and provide information on the financial implications of nature-related risks and opportunities.
  5. Establish a team: Create a multi-disciplinary team, including people from finance, data management and other relevant departments. This can assess your impact and develop strategies to mitigate risks and enhance outcomes.
  6. Seek sponsorship and em-powerment: Secure board-level sponsorship and empower an individual or team to lead integration of biodiversity considerations, ensuring issues are addressed effectively and efficiently.
  7. Engage stake-holders:Collaborate with stakeholders such as investors, lenders, employees and regulators to understand their expectations, concerns and preferences. Involve them in decision-making and seek their input on nature-related actions.
  8. Monitor and measure progress: Establish metrics and targets to track progress in mitigating biodiversity risks and contributing to positive outcomes. Monitor and report on performance for transparency and accountability.
  9. Support and engage with upcoming legislation, such as Biodiversity Net Gain, to ensure the incorporation of nature-positive practices.
  10. Build nature literacy:  Invest in training and awareness programmes to enhance employees’ understanding of biodiversity and its relevance to your business. Foster a culture of environmental stewardship.


Business imperative: recognising nature as an asset

According to a report by PwC, 55% of global GDP relies to some extent on nature, with the energy industry having a 35% dependency. Addressing biodiversity loss and promoting sustainable practices mitigates business risks and presents opportunities for innovation and long-term resilience.

We are part of nature, not separate from it; as the 2021 Dasgupta Review says, we need to think of nature as an asset and treat it accordingly.

The emergence of new nature markets, similar to carbon credits, aims to address some of these issues. The Environment Bank is one such provider, sharing its expertise on nature solutions with companies.

Technological advancements in biodiversity monitoring

When looking at the risks and opportunities for business, it is essential to remember that this is a journey. Only recently, an active investor criticised bp for moving away from fossil fuels and towards green energy too quickly. This road will be bumpy. The clarity of your message and the integrity of your nature data are key – and this is where new technology can help.

Let us consider the recent classification of Atlantic salmon in the UK as a newly endangered species. Technological advances are providing new evidence – for example in the use of tiny transmitters, the size of a grain of rice, to monitor salmon smolt migration patterns. For a long time, we thought salmon’s decline was mainly due to factors at sea. Thanks to this new technology, we know that there are challenges we can mitigate within the rivers themselves. By helping to solve the river issues, we are creating healthier waterways for all kinds of other fish and plants, too. Healthy rivers mean healthy wetlands and carbon capture. Dead or depleted rivers cannot play their part in thriving ecosystems.  

Ultimately, we need fat, fit smolts to increase their survival rates at sea. This new data enables stakeholders to implement more precise and targeted actions, river by river. Businesses need similar targeted actions to avoid accusations of greenwashing.

Shifting perspectives: connecting people to local environments

Transitions need to take people with them, but I would speculate that people can relate better to nature’s positive messages than to longer-term climate goals. The two are interconnected, but sometimes the argument is back to front. Protect nature and, by default, its habitat, and you can often reduce or at least mitigate carbon emissions.

The key here is connecting people to their local environment rather than incessantly focusing on polar bears. Yes, polar bears are awesome, and yes, they are a key indicator species, but they do not necessarily connect with a postal worker in Basingstoke. Bring the problem closer to home – when did you last hear a sparrow chirp in the UK?

If all this seems daunting, consider it part of a continuous movement to improve corporate responsibility and reduce risk after the financial crash of 2008.

Acting in line with sustainable practices and integrating biodiversity considerations into your operations not only protects nature but also contributes to your resilience and business success

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Policy initiatives and corporate responsibility

The term ESG was first used at COP21 in 2015 to focus on environmental, social and governance issues in business decisions. I remember this being a footnote in a company report and a quick decision on where we pumped in some donations. It became mainstream once investors began asking for more detail and prospective employees started questioning HR.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) subsequently established guidelines to improve transparency on the financial impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities. By adopting TCFD guidelines into their annual reports, organisations provide investors, lenders and insurers with clear, comprehensive and high-quality information to facilitate long-term financial decisions. The 11 disclosure recommendations are structured around four core elements: Governance, Strategy, Risk Management, and Metrics and Targets.

Similarly, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) aims to position nature risk alongside other financial and operational risks. Although not yet law, TNFD is considered a key milestone in the relationship between nature, business and financial capital.

The good news is that this can build on existing TCFD processes and incorporate them into annual accounts.

The Biodiversity Net Gain legislation, which became mandatory for major developments on 12 February 2024, aims to mitigate environmental damage and mandates developers to achieve a minimum of 10% Biodiversity Net Gain on new developments in England. This legislation, which will be applied to small sites starting 2 April 2024, aligns with the government’s objective of safeguarding 30% of land and sea by 2030.

The strength of this law lies in the mandate to maintain the habitat for 30 years. It is not simply about setting aside an area; instead, it entails proactive management for the benefit of nature. Having governments establish a framework makes it easier for businesses to operate on an equal footing.

Businesses have a crucial role

The focus on climate change can mask the immediate challenges we face, which may not be climate related. Global campaign ‘It’s Now for Nature’ makes this point, calling for businesses to act together to build a more nature-positive world by 2030. It talks about a net zero and a nature-positive equitable future, with businesses contributing by setting credible nature strategies. And remember, acting in line with sustainable practices and integrating biodiversity considerations into your operations not only protects nature but also contributes to your resilience and business success.

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