Assessing and taking stock of tools to mainstream biodiversity for business

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Business and nature are inextricably connected. Most businesses depend on biodiversity, either directly or through their supply chains. Biodiversity provides critical resources on which businesses depend. In negatively impacting biodiversity, businesses risk losing these essential resources. Financial organisations investing in such businesses may also be exposed to risk if the businesses they invest in negatively impact biodiversity. As a result, it has become more and more important for the private sector to demonstrate strong and improved performance on biodiversity.

In recent years, a sudden explosion of tools (standards, metrics, and approaches) has emerged to help businesses measure their performance on biodiversity issues. However, these have developed independently and through a different mix of concerns, with no agreement or efforts to standardise these approaches. This has the potential to weaken their interest by companies, confused by a proliferation of initiatives. More importantly, these tools are being developed separately from government discussions on setting international targets for biodiversity, and it is not clear how they can be used to contribute to achieving these targets.

The Natural Resources Institute’s upcoming report “Synthesis and critical assessment of management tools to mainstream biodiversity in decision-making in the private sectorshows how these tools can be leveraged  to achieve real change in biodiversity performance in the private sector.

The new study reviews and compares existing tools and provides insight from a desk review and interviews with tool developers. It examines how they are constructed, how they measure biodiversity performance, how and where they are being used by different businesses and how they contribute to achieving international targets for biodiversity.

How do tools support mainstreaming of biodiversity in business decisions?

The tools reviewed perform a range of functions including assessing potential or actual negative effects on biodiversity of business activities, assessing potential or actual effects on biodiversity of mitigation activities, assessing compliance with sustainability standards that include biodiversity aspects, identifying business dependencies on biodiversity, and providing guidance on management processes to integrate biodiversity into business decision-making. The tools are mostly applied at product, site and/or supply chain level and only to a limited extent at corporate level.

How are tools aligned with the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework?

Most of the tools are in alignment (either primarily or indirectly) with the 2030 Action targets which aim to include biodiversity values in policy, to support the assessment of business impacts and dependencies on biodiversity, and to advocate for responsible consumption. Approximately half of the tools are in alignment (primarily or indirectly) with the targets that advocate for reducing incentives harmful for biodiversity, and for increasing the financial support for biodiversity conservation. Mainly unclear, no alignment or indirect alignment was found for the targets which advocate local knowledge integration and support local participation, and the target which supports the reduction of potential adverse impacts of biotechnology on biodiversity.

Where are the most important knowledge gaps?

Dependence on biodiversity is often assessed indirectly, there is a need to develop platforms and metrics to quantify biodiversity dependencies in terms of costs/benefits to the business associated with changes in the state of biodiversity. There is also scope to better incorporate impacts of business activities (positive or negative) on the broader ecosystem (spatial spillover effects). Finally, there are opportunities to integrate historical evidence of landscape change to better assess future biodiversity risk for businesses.

The researchers highlight several actions that tool developers, value chain actors, and governments can take to better leverage standards for biodiversity conservation and benefits for businesses and society. Listen to the Evidensia webinar where we discuss the study’s findings.

Dr Pamela Katic
Senior Social Scientist - Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich

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