As awareness of the risks to and reliance on nature become more evident to companies, some of them are shifting from accounting for and reducing negative impacts to ensuring the restoration and preservation of nature. Business actions in response to biodiversity loss take shape in a variety of ways. For example, more than 1,100 businesses have signed on to a campaign led by Business for Nature to advocate for reversing the loss of nature. The program includes inspiring others to make commitments that guarantee the future of nature and, thus, business.
Another approach involves investing in nature protection that will ideally protect, repair, or restore biodiversity. As more businesses commit to reversing nature loss, they are investing in new ways, including offering community grants through organizational foundations or philanthropic arms, supporting capacity development in suppliers, and funding restoration of habitats larger than the size they rely on. These place-based actions provide greater ROI when they consider ecosystem integrity, which ensures the functioning of natural processes that are critical for people and businesses, such as the provision of freshwater and the productivity of soil.
A third response to biodiversity loss is tracking global and national policy developments that affect suppliers, sourcing regions, and operations. For example, some businesses are tracking policy and legislative developments related to the Post-2022 Global Biodiversity Framework, an emerging framework from the United Nations (UN) to identify 20+ critical targets for humanity that address the greatest challenges for nature. The aim is for a future where all of nature, including species and ecosystems, will be restored and thrive. In the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 30th year, businesses are more engaged than ever in the process. The resulting implementation is expected to have wide-ranging opportunities and influence for the corporate sector, including issues related to indicators, risks, and reporting.
Finally, many businesses are hiring in-house staff or working with coalitions to broaden their expertise in biodiversity. For example, many corporations are expanding their capacity to engage with nature topics by adding staff with experience in biodiversity. Regardless of the approach being taken, experts and leaders must be on the ground to have a true impact. No one organization can do this alone: it is a space for partnerships.
Why Partnerships Are Essential
Biodiversity is tied to place, so businesses need local knowledge of the environment where their suppliers are located and materials are sourced. Having partners with this knowledge, or access to those who have it, is essential for working with local geographies. Reaching nature positive outcomes requires skills in making place-based decisions. Thus, there is a need to work with advocates on the ground who know the local ecologies, communities, and requirements for success. They are critical partners for companies that want to meet their nature commitments.
Partners can also help determine which natural areas are the priority for protection or restoration. Biodiversity is not equally distributed across the planet, so ensuring the right places are protected and restored requires partners that can help discern that information. Some areas of the Earth, like the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands, and the Southern Ocean, are much higher in biodiversity than other areas, and some habitats are capable of storing more carbon than others. Protecting nature requires intimate knowledge of the habitats, species, and environmental conditions that thrive in the more than 1,000 diverse ecoregions found on land and in the sea across the planet.
Environmental nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and many private groups play a key role in environmental governance at the local level. Larger nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often work as intermediaries, supporting and building relationships with smaller NGOs and communities over the years while working on biodiversity protection projects. These entities know where to enact restoration activities, what to protect, what to plant, and how to restore populations of species.
Partnerships are also integral to both ecological and social effectiveness. Indigenous peoples and local communities are stewards of a third of the planet, including some of the most ecologically significant and intact landscapes. Many have worked diligently for years, in some cases thousands of years, to both guard and sustainably use some of the most threatened regions of the world. Reaching nature commitments as well as social justice issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion rely on working well with those who live within and near areas where biodiversity is threatened or in need of restoration.
Partnerships can also increase efficiency in reaching nature commitments. Given the physical and organizational limitations of any one company, working with partners allows scaling of resources, solutions, and geographies to reach the landscape and seascape levels that are critical for the functionality of the environment and flow of nutrients, genetic material, highly migratory species (e.g., whales, birds, caribou), freshwater, and so forth.
For companies committing to large-scale conservation goals, working with partners allows for data sharing, collaborating across political boundaries, and addressing ecological challenges at the landscape and seascape scales. Partnerships also take advantage of the added strengths of each partner to the relationship.
[For more from the author on this topic, see: “Partnerships Are Key to Achieving a Nature Positive Future.”]