A new report by the Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) in collaboration with PwC entitled Biodiversity and Business highlights the need for companies to take a more holistic approach to biodiversity. The report highlights the actions and strategies companies are taking to reduce their impact on biodiversity. It also makes clear that in doing so, companies often focus on climate change as the only cause of biodiversity loss while in fact, there are four other equally important drivers.
Biodiversity under pressure
The past five decades have seen a rapid deterioration in our global ecosystems. Research by the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), shows that biodiversity is under enormous pressure from human activities. The WWF Living Planet Report describes that one million species – out of an estimated eight million in total – are threatened with extinction.
Angélique Laskewitz, director of VBDO: ‘With such gloomy figures, it is sometimes difficult to remain optimistic. However, not acting is not a choice. It gives me hope that now many companies and investors are paying attention to biodiversity. In 2022, the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework was adopted. This framework provides us with a clear vision and targets for taking concerted action, by both governments and companies. Our report builds on this.’
Most companies have taken action to reduce their impact on biodiversity, but at the same time are struggling to find the right approach, the report notes. From the interviews conducted, this is mostly due to the complexity of the subject: there are many different factors involved in effectively reducing negative impacts on biodiversity. For instance, the focus is usually on climate change, while four other causes need at least as much attention, such as countering pollution and the spread of invasive plant and animal species.
Good practice instead of best practice
The report stresses that it is crucial for companies to be aware of their impacts and to understand the dependencies within their business models. In this way, they can make changes appropriate to their operations and the areas in which they operate. Despite not yet having an example of biodiversity best practice, several companies are already taking good steps towards reducing their impact on biodiversity.
JDE Peet’s is one of the companies already showing that such an approach is possible. Laurent Sagarra, Vice President Sustainability of JDE Peet’s: ‘Deforestation poses a significant and long-term risk to coffee production and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. As the world’s largest pure-play coffee and tea company, we are working with our technology partner, NGOs and countries of origin to map all forests and coffee plots. We do this using high-resolution satellite imagery, coupled with on-the-ground validation, to identify coffee planted on deforested land. Once this is identified, we work with local partners to reforest the land in question so that 100% of coffee production in the countries of origin is deforestation-free. This not only helps secure our future, but also ensures that all farmers continue to have access to EU markets.’
Approach for and from companies
Alexander Spek, partner within PwC’s sustainability practice: ‘The companies in the report show that, despite the complexity of the issue, it is possible to engage meaningfully in addressing biodiversity loss. We need to work out what good practices can look like while taking action. Nature cannot wait for us to develop a perfect approach.’
Laskewitz adds: ‘This report provides a good, first vision of an approach for companies. We are now working with PWC to develop a biodiversity benchmark. This will not only give tips for further improvement but also check on the current status of European companies. It is high time they were made aware of the facts, and VBDO is happy to help them with that.