The Leonardo Centre published a new report on 31 May 2023 in partnership with HSBC, 'The evolution of corporate behaviour to tackle biodiversity challenges’ which examines how companies across all sectors and regions globally, have addressed biodiversity in the last two decades.
The report finds that less is more: while the number of corporate biodiversity initiatives has decreased over time, the quality of initiatives has improved.
The planet is in the midst of an intertwined biodiversity and climate crisis, and the window for avoiding a catastrophe is closing. Biodiversity loss translates into a 69% species loss since 1970, inextricably connected to changes in land use, overexploitation, and climatic conditions, as well as increasing levels of pollution. Businesses' role in contributing to biodiversity loss is widely acknowledged, and business leaders are starting to step up to the challenge of mitigating and reversing the trends of biodiversity losses.
It is difficult to link biodiversity losses with specific activities – save for direct impacts on habitats, such as agriculture on forests and fishing on marine life. Moreover, we are still missing a broadly accepted measurement framework for biodiversity loss. Consequently, it remains a challenge for businesses and regulators to set specific and quantifiable targets to monitor businesses' progress in addressing biodiversity challenges.
To address this gap, a critical step is to map the evolution of business efforts to address their environmental impact, including biodiversity losses. Using data from the Leonardo Centre's global dataset of corporate sustainability initiatives, this report is the first to focus on the evolution of corporate initiatives directed at tackling biodiversity challenges over the last two decades. The data-driven results can inform the development of innovative initiatives aiming to regenerate our natural environment beyond simply reducing negative spill-overs.
Our analysis of 40,000 corporate sustainability initiatives, directed at the preservation and regeneration of Life on Land (Sustainable Development Goal 15) and Life below Water (Sustainable Development Goal 14) offers key insights for driving nature-positive corporate action with timely implications for business, financial, and policy audiences.
The data paints a mixed picture of how the private sector has tackled biodiversity. On the one hand, the relatively low and declining effort dedicated to biodiversity vis-a-vis the other challenges in the UN SDG framework is a source of concern. But on the other hand, companies are adopting long-term and more sophisticated approaches to tackling biodiversity through business model adaptation, thus paving the way for high-impact change.
The implications for businesses, financial institutions and policymakers point to the need to accelerate the emergence and global diffusion of assessment frameworks, such as the Taskforce on Nature related Financial Disclosure (TNFD). The fact that the number of companies reporting on CDP surveys related to biodiversity is increasing at a fast pace is an encouraging sign.
The insights emerging from this report aim at contributing to the execution of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and the Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN).