In the first webinar of the biodiversity series organised by VBDO, the scientific (represented by the WUR) and business (represented by Robeco) perspectives were presented. During the webinar, we explained that biodiversity forms the foundation of human society and its economy.
The need for change
Preserving the biosphere then, also means building a sustainable future in the long term. The first speaker, Reinier Hille Ris Lambers, explained that one of the largest contributors to biodiversity loss is Western consumption. On top of that, progress towards major internationally agreed goals (2020) is lagging. To solve this, transformative change is needed, meaning a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation. Further research has estimated that the cost of biodiversity restoration is 150-430 Billion US$ p/y. However, the cost of doing nothing in the face of land degradation is at least three times higher than the cost of action. Though the cost/benefit business case for putting a stop to biodiversity loss is clear, it remains a challenge to account for biodiversity in traditional risk/return validation models.
In working towards improving biodiversity, investors can focus on avoidance of biodiversity impact, minimizing their impact, rehabilitation and lastly compensation. That way business can work towards an innovation path, while out-phasing their disruption path. Another option would be to create a biodiversity credit market, a solution proposed by the second speaker, Peter van der Werf. He further explained how Robeco has started with understanding the impact of investments on biodiversity. This is achieved by finding the sourcing biodiversity footprint of commodities (such as beef, timber, cocoa and rubber) from companies, and then engaging with them on the topic of biodiversity and making policies.
Another investor approach is asking questions such as ‘what is feasible’ and ‘who’s interests are at stake’ in the larger picture of making biodiversity loss an issue for all invested companies. In the end, both speakers agree that we need to engage in multi stakeholder partnerships to realize the transformation needed to put a stop to further loss of biodiversity, aim to create a net positive impact and de facto restore biodiversity.
A final initiative is the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge that will be launched 25 September, 2020 in the context of the United Nations General Assembly. Robeco is one of the supporters of this Pledge and other financial institutions are invited to join. More information and link to launching event on 25 September via: www.financeforbiodiversity.org.
Webinar presentation slides
Part 2 & 3 from this series