Founder/CEO Colossal, Founder Hypergiant, Founder/CEO Conversable[Acq:LPSN], Founder/CEO ChaoticMoon[Acq: ACN], Founder TeamChaos[Acq:Zynga]
In the U.S., you could have blinked and missed a momentous announcement that impacts our ability to safeguard and improve our planet. I noticed that news coverage of the COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal was significantly less than that of the COP21 agreement on climate held in Paris in 2015. Nor did it receive the fanfare or celebrity endorsement. But, it is an important step forward in ensuring our planet continues to be a diverse ecosystem.
Biodiversity is paramount for the functioning of our planet, and the business case should suggest that focusing on biodiversity is as important as reigning in our carbon emissions: “Degrading ecosystems could trigger a downward spiral of US$2.7 trillion in global Gross Domestic Product by 2030.” Failures in biodiversity costs the global economy more than $5 trillion a year in the form of lost natural services. The World Economic Forum in collaboration with PwC found that “$44 trillion of economic value generation—more than half of the world’s total GDP—is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to nature loss.”
There are 23 environmental targets stipulated under the COP15 agenda. Of these, the most recognized target is known as the “30 by 30” conservation target (paywall). This name comes from the mandate that by 2030, governments will ensure and enable 30% of the planet is under protection. This will be accomplished through the creation of protected areas and other known measures for area-based conservation. Currently, approximately 17% of land and roughly 8% of the oceans are protected. Additionally, the deal would roughly double overall financing focused on biodiversity protection to $200 billion a year from all sources.
But, all together, I think businesses can do more. Conservation is a powerful component in maintaining our biodiversity. As of 2019, one study found nearly 30,000 species were at risk of extinction, while another found that nearly 1 million species were at risk of extinction. A healthy planet, one with a fully functioning diverse ecosystem, requires we also determine how to recover those lost species.
It’s important for companies to plan for and align on the need to support biodiversity. Through new technologies, we can improve species resiliency and grow species capacity. Some companies like mine are even working on bringing back species that are needed for health ecosystems. These steps will allow us to create more hospitable spaces for species. In the next five years, I think we will see scientists actively recovering species and protecting species from diseases, creating more extreme weather-resistant species.
More and more companies are joining in efforts to support the environment. But, other businesses also have the opportunity to get involved with efforts to support biodiversity efforts.
1. Identify your full environmental impact.
First, start with understanding the impacts of your organization on the full environment, not just your carbon emissions. Emissions are one aspect of climate change, but they paint an incomplete picture. I suggest business leaders also undertake a material assessment to understand the material impacts and dependencies of their organizations. Science Based Targets Network offers a guide that companies can utilize.
2. Evaluate business risks and opportunities related to nature and biodiversity.
This evaluation can lead to actions that help businesses understand the loss of biodiversity on your financial and business outcomes. One tool that organizations can utilize is the framework from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which can be used to evaluate and manage nature-related risks.
3. Set goals and raise awareness around your goals.
Measure and set targets for land use, freshwater use and ecosystem integrity. Again, there are useful tools available for companies attempting to measure and set biodiversity targets. And then, commit publicly to those goals to reduce waste and prioritize the protection of the planet as a core aspect of business. This could include signing corporate pledges.
4. Consider nature-based solutions.
New companies and legacy companies can consider the concept of “nature-based solutions,” which originate with the idea that companies can restore nature, mitigate and adapt to climate change, while also supporting the lifestyles and interests of local people. In doing so businesses can transform to restore and regenerate landscapes.
Stopping climate change and protecting plants and animals are and should be recognized as linked goals. Reducing carbon emissions is vital. Recovering species is too.
This is all possible, but requires technology investment and ideological alignment. Protecting biodiversity is more than just conserving what we have; it’s planning a pathway to a better tomorrow.