Nature & Business: An Intimate, and Important, Connection

Posted May 3, 2023 | Sustainability |
nature business connection

Nature underpins our collective survival and well-being by providing human development and equality, economic value and security, and increasing our resilience to climate change. Its critical role in decision-making, value chain management, and consumer preferences has been increasingly recognized within the business and finance community.

The term “nature positive” is quickly gaining traction. However, without broad alignment of what it means for business and finance, there is a genuine risk of confusion. How the term is interpreted, valued, and used continues to be contested, creating a risk of undermining the ability to drive meaningful change.

Why Is Nature Important to Business & Finance?

Business won’t function if nature continues to decline. Resources like water, soil, food, fiber, and minerals, and ecosystem services like crop pollination, water filtration, and climate regulation all contribute to business success and human livelihoods. Take these away, and companies will cease to function effectively. Business operations will become unviable, supply chains unmanageable, and relationships with employees and customers untenable.

The opposite is also true. When harnessed responsibly, natural abundance and regenerative natural systems translate into productive growth, both for companies and the communities they serve. Business and finance, therefore, have a critical role to play in protecting and restoring nature.

More than half of the world’s GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature and the services it provides. For example, three of the world’s most nature-dependent sectors (construction, agriculture, and food and beverage) generate close to US $8 trillion of gross value added and could be directly impacted by poorer soils, scarcer water, and fewer pollinators.

In addition to operational costs and complications due to nature loss, there is a very real possibility of stranded assetsinvestor divestmentconsumer boycotts, capital destruction, increased price volatility, disruptions to processes and supply chains, and the loss of talented employees to more responsible competitors.

Conversely, a nature positive world presents opportunities for businesses willing to take bold actions. Consumers are looking for products that respect nature, not destroy it. Similarly, investors want to finance firms with business models and technologies that contribute to a circular economy and restore, rather than degrade, nature.

Recent research predicts business investments in nature could generate significant opportunities and create up to 395 million jobs by 2030. But realizing this potential won’t be easy. Success relies on the transformation not just of individual companies, but entire sectors and value chains.

The long-term resilience of all businesses depends on bringing nature back into balance. The goal of a nature positive future and the existence of business are intimately interconnected.

What Is Nature Positive?

There is agreement among experts that nature positive is “a global goal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, and achieve full recovery by 2050,” where thriving ecosystems and nature-based solutions continue to support future generations and play a critical role in tackling climate change risks. The global goal represents an objective that should inform actions under all global multinational agreements, in particular the three Rio Conventions and the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) guide the activities of government, civil society, and business.

The global goal is supported by the heads of state of the world’s seven largest economies, and more than 300 leading organizations. Many are now advocating that this global goal should be Mission 2030 in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted by governments at the UN's Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in 2022. Yet how businesses can practically engage with the global goal remains the subject of debate and confusion.

[For more from the authors on this topic, see: “How Business & Finance Can Contribute to a Nature Positive Future Now.”]

About The Author
Eva Zabey
Eva Zabey is Executive Director at Business for Nature. With a background in natural capital and environmental management, she is an experienced leader, facilitator, speaker, writer, and spokesperson and has been featured on TEDx Talks. Previously, Ms. Zabey spent 15 years leading multiple projects at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, including work on natural, social, and human capital measurement and valuation for… Read More
Erin Billman
Erin Billman is Executive Director at the Science Based Targets Network. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has focused her career on working with organizations — both for-profit and nonprofit — to best steward the natural world as a strategy toward long-term success. Ms. Billman is a board member of the Earthwatch Institute, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council for Nature-Based Solutions, and chair of the World… Read More