Industry associations, advocacy, biodiversity and climate change

Anna Triponel

November 4, 2022
Our key takeaway: Many companies are taking action to prevent or slow biodiversity loss through their own policies and initiatives, and in their supply chains. They may be missing the boat, however, when it comes to their membership in trade associations. New research shows that some of the most influential industry associations are seeking to “delay, dilute and rollback” new regulatory efforts to address the “twin crises” of biodiversity loss and climate change. Given the high level of lobbying influence that many associations have, there is a major opportunity for companies to leverage their membership into action for policy outcomes that align (and advance) with their own individual commitments to biodiversity and climate change. Step one is understanding the policy positions that trade associations are taking; then, companies should use their voice individually or collectively to push for the priorities they want to see—and to challenge lobbying that risks causing more harm to people and the planet. 

Think tank InfluenceMap conducted a study of influential trade associations around the world to assess their performance with regard to promoting biodiversity-protecting policies. “Industry Influence on Biodiversity Policy: A Pilot Study Demonstrating Industry Associations’ Engagement on Biodiversity-related Policy and Regulations” (October 2022):

  • The need for action on biodiversity: For scientists, there is no question that the biodiversity and climate crises are interlinked, “twin crises that should be tackled together.” For example, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recognises climate change as a “direct driver of biodiversity loss.” Meanwhile, biodiversity loss “hinders our ability to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change through the gradual erosion of ecosystem services that biodiversity provides.” InfluenceMap reports that, like global warming, human-caused biodiversity loss is “occurring globally at unprecedented rates and faster than at any other time in human history.” While world leaders and policymakers are aware of this crisis, we’ve “failed to meet any of the UN biodiversity targets for the last decade.” As a response to this gap, national policy is emerging in many countries to tackle the issue of biodiversity loss; for example, the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy in the EU and efforts by the Biden administration in the US to repeal previous environmental regulation rollbacks and set new target to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. 
  • The challenge: Through its research, InfluenceMap found that government efforts to protect biodiversity are receiving pushback from sectors that are concerned about the effect of new regulation on their business, including agriculture, fisheries, forestry & paper, mining and oil & gas. InfluenceMap examined the policies and actions of EU and US industry associations representing five sectors that are the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, as well as significant regional cross-sector industry associations. These include: International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP), American Petroleum Institute (API), Euracoal, National Mining Association (NMA), Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi), American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Copa Cogeca, National Fisheries Institute, Europeche, BusinessEurope, and the US Chamber of Commerce. The research found that these bodies are lobbying governments to “delay, dilute and rollback critically needed policy aimed at preventing and reversing biodiversity loss.” Specifically, “these industry associations are opposed to almost all major biodiversity-relevant policies and regulations, with 89% of the policy engagement analyzed found to be aimed at blocking progress on addressing biodiversity loss.”
  • What companies can do: The industry associations studied by InfluenceMap represent some of the most influential companies in the world, including Saudi Aramco, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, Toyota, Alphabet, Microsoft, Samsung and ExxonMobil. The report shares several clear targets where immediate action is needed. For example, “In both the EU and the US, the next few years are crucial in terms of policy implementation and reversing the trend of biodiversity decline.” This signals that one needed next step by companies is to conduct due diligence on the associations they belong to, understand how and on what they are lobbying, and stand up for climate- and biodiversity-forward positions. They can also use their leverage—whether as individual members or with peers—to push for the outcomes they want to see. Another approach is for companies to individually or collectively engage government and policymakers to urge consistent action towards a just transition that protects biodiversity, reduces emissions, and centers on human rights. (One resource to look at is a 2021 report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which provides specific actions that companies can take to shape the priorities and lobbying activities of the trade associations they belong to.)

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