Is Your Company Ready to Embark on a Nature Positive Journey?

Posted April 3, 2024 | Sustainability |
Is Your Company Ready for a Nature Positive Journey?

Although many advances in elevating nature as a significant risk and opportunity for business have been modeled after successful climate initiatives, a divergence happens when it comes to goal setting and implementation.

The corporate climate target of net zero is based on a single metric: units of carbon. Nature is different. There is no single metric. Impacts are hyperlocal and driven by multiple factors. Ecosystems are complex. Accountability for positive and negative influences can be debated. Pressures differ not just across operations, but also geographical locations. A quarry in Indonesia, for instance, will have a significantly different nature impact than the same operation in the UK.

The complexity of nature suggests that companies should eschew any destination-focused aspiration (e.g., “being nature positive”) and instead commit to starting and progressing on a journey. This approach lets companies choose a starting point that allows them to prioritize according to impact and act according to context.

There are multiple starting points for any company seeking to embark on a nature positive journey. The Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), the framework to support corporate disclosures, recognizes that organizations are different and allows for multiple entryways while expecting increasing ambition over time. The best place to start is with an awareness-raising phase.

Raising Awareness

One of the most cited practical obstacles to engaging in nature-related initiatives within environmental or sustainability offices is a lack of leadership buy-in and support. CEOs and boards seem resistant to yet another ESG (environmental, social, and governance) concern, especially as climate continues to dominate noncore business discussions. Many see corporate buy-in as essential to starting a nature positive journey; but, in fact, preparatory work like mapping impacts and dependencies, gathering data, and understanding supply chains can take place without it. In some cases, buy-in will only take place once success has been illustrated on the ground.

If C-suite support is important, buy-in below the C-suite is essential. Operational impacts and geographic locations contribute to biodiversity loss in a land-based company in the extractive sectors while supply chain activities are material to manufacturing and other sectors. Creating awareness and fostering engagement from operations, procurement, facilities management, and real estate will drive the journey forward. Importantly, messaging should be carefully tailored to each target audience in this phase.


With awareness raised, the next step is to interrogate the company’s relationship to nature, seeking to understand its nature-based risks dependencies and opportunities. There are many tools and partners available to help. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Species Action Plan is a good starting point, as it lists eight GBF targets relevant to business. IPBES is currently undertaking a Methodological Assessment of the Impact and Dependencies of Business on Biodiversity and Nature’s Contributions to People, which will add to our collective knowledge. Companies must adopt boundaries for their explorations, and SBTN provides a sector-level materiality assessment tool that helps companies identify locations for further exploration and ultimately target setting.

Assessing & Planning

With a materiality analysis in hand, companies can focus on specific locations to assess for impacts and dependencies on nature. An academic or nongovernmental organization (NGO) partner may be necessary at this stage to bring scientific and local knowledge into the assessment. Many NGOs (e.g., BirdLife International, Flora & Fauna International, IUCN, and Wildlife Habitat Council [WHC]) have dedicated business and biodiversity programs that can build bespoke approaches for a company-wide assessment, and local environmental groups can be strong partners for site-based efforts.

In most companies, community relations staff should know who the nature positive stakeholders are. Each location should be assessed using a nature-impact methodology that examines the impacts of the industrial or commercial processes, the footprint, the supporting infrastructure against the geographical location, and the nature on or adjacent to the site. Each assessment should deliver a priority list of impacts and a suite of recommended interventions. These assessments can be a starting point for target setting and disclosures.

[For more from the author on this topic, see: “Actionable Steps for Corporate Nature Positive Journeys.”]

About The Author
Margaret O'Gorman
Margaret O’Gorman operates at the intersection of business and nature. She is President of the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), an organization that assists multinational corporations in integrating conservation objectives into their sustainability efforts; she is also a member of Arthur D. Little’s AMP open consulting network. Ms. O’Gorman helps companies drive long-term sustainability through WHC’s signature Conservation Certification… Read More