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Businesses are failing to act on biodiversity risk

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Despite the potential for catastrophic consequences that could ensue from biodiversity loss, businesses are failing to act. In fact, according to new research from Capgemini Research Institute, only a mere 24% of organisations have a biodiversity strategy in place.  

  • Only 17% of executives regard biodiversity loss as a risk influencing their business an immediate concern, even though 86% of executives stating that biodiversity is important to the planet 
  • Biodiversity is becoming integral to supply chains, but only 16% of organizations have completed an assessment of the impact of their supply chain on biodiversity 
  • Current global corporate investment is estimated to represents less than 5% of what is needed annually to reverse damage to biodiversity.

The report Preserving the fabric of life: Why biodiversity loss is as urgent as climate
change highlights the disconnect between growing understanding of the supply chain of biodiversity loss and the failure to integrate that knowledge into strategic thinking.

“Every business depends on biodiversity and ecosystems: whether it is direct inputs such as water or fibers, or ‘ecosystem services’ like water regulation or soil fertility, a thriving and functioning biosphere is critical to human well-being, wider sustainability goals as well as economic growth and stability. However, many organizations
underestimate their direct impact on biodiversity loss, and their responsibility in protecting and restoring it,” said Cyril Garcia, Group Head of Global Sustainability Services and Corporate Responsibility and Group Executive Board Member at Capgemini.

Companies give biodiversity risk too low a priority

Though climate change and biodiversity loss are closely interlinked, the immediate focus for most organisations is presently directed towards climate concerns, with a majority of executives believing that biodiversity holds a
lower rank in priority compared to climate change.

Part of the challenge is that just over half of executives globally believe it is not
the role of a private company to address biodiversity, just to follow biodiversity regulation – and this even reaches 78% in Italy and 75% in Japan.

Nearly half (47%) of executives regard biodiversity loss as a medium-term risk for their businesses and 30% perceive it as a long-term risk (2050) while just 17% view it as an immediate concern – with significant regional differences in the perception of the biodiversity emergency. What’s interesting here is that business leaders in Japan or France are considering that they are already affected by biodiversity loss, or will be by 2025 (30 and 32%, respectively) whereas in many other regions such as Canada, Germany or Australia, over 90% of them perceive this risk as medium (2030) to
long-term (2050).

Ultimately, the report estimates that global corporate investment in biodiversity preservation represents less than 5% of what is needed from all stakeholders (public and private) in the next 10 years to reverse damage to the biodiversity ecosystem.

Strategies to protect biodiversity are lacking

Organisations are increasingly aware of the catastrophic consequences of the loss of biodiversity and other related ecosystem damage. However, only a quarter of organisations have a biodiversity strategy, with Australia (15%), Germany (16%), Canada (17%) and Italy (18%) lagging behind.

These strategies may include initiatives such as investing in circular practices, developing science-based targets, or considering biodiversity impact on investment decisions. On average, land preservation or restoration projects are a bigger focus than freshwater and ocean projects.

Furthermore, only 16% of organisations have completed an impact assessment of their
supply chain on biodiversity and just 20% have done the same for their operations.
In general, executives agree on the importance of conserving biodiversity but 59% of those surveyed find that the complexities surrounding biodiversity create challenges.

Unlike carbon, which is relatively easy to define, measure and document, biodiversity is more difficult to determine in terms of quantification, observation, and consequently, impact evaluation. These complexities are attributed to the absence of globally uniform
benchmarks for gauging and overseeing impacts on biodiversity, ambiguities in goal setting, and a skills gap in the biodiversity talent market.

Biodiversity integral to supply chains

Many organizations have made biodiversity an integral consideration within their supply chain: of the executives surveyed, 58% say their organisation has updated their supplier code of conduct to include biodiversity considerations, while about half mention that their organisations are investing in deforestation-free supply
chains and require sustainable forest management practices from their suppliers.

When exploring specific industries, the consumer goods sector emerges with the highest percentage (26%) of organisations that have already evaluated the impact of their operations on biodiversity, whereas the public/government sector exhibits the lowest percentage (14%) in this regard. In the context of supply chains,
the retail sector claims the highest completion rate (26%) for impact assessments, whereas the agriculture and forestry sectors indicate the lowest completion rate (10%).

Circular economy practices prove most popular

Necessary to addressing the biodiversity crisis are changes at organisational, behavioural, and cultural levels, with the adoption of circularity playing a critical role. Almost two thirds of executives say their organisation has implemented circular economy practices, such as recycling and reusing2 and over half of organisations are taking steps to mitigate negative impacts on land and water.

Technology will play a critical role in tackling biodiversity challenges

A key part of the future of biodiversity conservation and restoration will include the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions alongside blockchain technology and sensors to simplify the monitoring and tracing of diverse populations, encompassing animals, birds, and plants.

Leveraging AI and robotics can aid in species tracking while minimising disruptions to the surrounding biodiversity. Synthetic biology is also expected to be part of the
solution to some of the most severe threats to the environment including reducing chemical and plastic pollution.

In fact, almost three quarters of executives agree that digital technologies will also be key to their organisation’s biodiversity efforts. To that end, organizations are particularly investing in AI and machine learning (31%), followed by 3D printing (30%), and robotics (28%).

SGV Take

Whatever businesses think today it’s time for them to proactively address the issue and get ahead of mandatory regulations that are on their way, especially as many solutions and frameworks such as the Task Force on Nature-related risks Disclosure and regenerative practices are already available to help protect

As is so often raised when looking at CO2 footprint and the supply chain, collaboration, investment and innovation will all be key to helping organisations identify and
implement strategies for biodiversity protection and preservation. What really stands out though is the complexity and regional specificity of the challenge -and that is going to see major growth in the enabling tech market.

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