Our key takeaway: More and more companies are demonstrating attention, effort and action on the urgent climate crisis. While this is an unqualified positive for the world, we need more companies to take the same pathways to protecting nature and biodiversity. Many of these actions can mirror what companies have done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: carrying out science-based assessments to understand their impact on nature and biodiversity; creating measurable management plans to prevent or mitigate their impacts on nature; ensuring that lobbying associations are aligned with nature-positive agendas; tracking and disclosing more, and—crucially—continuing to respect the rights of people who can be negatively impacted by nature and biodiversity loss, especially indigenous peoples and land-based communities. Indeed, the traditional knowledge and ecosystem protection approaches lived by many communities are a source of learning for companies and others.
The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) launched the 2022 results of its first round of assessments on how companies are reducing their negative impacts on nature and contributing to protection and restoration ecosystems. The benchmark covers 400 companies across 8 industries:
- Look beyond net-zero goals for a nature-positive future: The report finds that many companies are continuing to report their progress and grow their ambition on climate goals—an unqualified positive—however, many are failing to systematically do the same for their impacts on nature and biodiversity. WBA suggests that companies should carry out a science-based assessment to understand how their operations and business model may negatively impact nature and biodiversity. Currently only 5% of companies benchmarked have done this, while 50% of companies have set greenhouse gas reductions goals. WBA urges companies to apply the same effort to assessing their impacts on nature.
- Apply formal frameworks and initiatives to protect nature: There are different ways in which companies can combat nature loss. For instance, companies can commit to avoid ecosystem conversion in their operations and supply chains, e.g., but halting deforestation and protecting wetlands. 5% of companies have a target or initiative for this in place. Companies are also advised to put in place a science-based management plan for any species they do exploit. In addition, only a third of companies have demonstrated heightened efforts to curb water, avoid pollution and reduce waste and plastic use. These approaches need to be undertaken urgently, given the extreme rate at which the world is losing its biodiversity. The report also finds that more tracking is needed on biodiversity so that scientists and companies can understand the practical impacts of business activities on nature.
- “There is no credible pathway towards nature-positive without respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities”: WBA points out that “Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) often live in critical ecosystems and coexist with threatened species.” They also manage around 40% of a protected land areas, bolstered by a deep understanding of ecosystems. However, fewer than 13% of companies in the benchmark had a clear commitment to respect indigenous rights, especially the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Furthermore, few companies have put in place formal policies or commitments to protect environmental and human rights defenders, despite the growing risks to their lives.