How business can use science to seize the opportunities of a nature-positive economy

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major wake-up call about how close we are to undermining the web of life that sustains us all. Business and city leaders have a critical role to play in steering their organizations towards a future where humanity and nature will thrive.

A nature-positive economy is not only better for the planet, WEF’s Future of Nature and Business report tells us that nature-positive transitions could generate up to US$10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

Tackling the nature crisis alongside the climate crisis is essential to ensure we build a carbon-neutral, nature-positive future, since the climate crisis is inextricably linked with the unsustainable pressure faced by all the Earth’s critical life support systems.

A new international partnership – the Global Commons Alliance – has been created to synthesize the latest science on global targets for nature and translate this to support the rapid systemic transformation of cities and businesses. As part of this, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) is publishing its first guidance for companies in September. This will provide businesses with the essential foundation for action.

Over 900 of the world’s major companies are now committed to ensure they are doing ‘enough’ to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through the Science Based Targets initiative for climate. They report multiple business benefits like increased innovation and investor confidence, reduced regulatory risk and greater competitiveness.

Many business leaders have been growing increasingly concerned about their environmental impacts beyond climate and the material risks to their operations and value chains resulting from nature loss. By setting science-based targets for climate and nature, companies can further reduce financial risk, increase resilience and harness innovation that drives competitiveness. Tackling both climate change and nature loss is a more efficient way of innovating and adapting as it results in solutions that benefit nature, climate and people. These include mitigating climate change through increasing carbon sequestration as well as helping stabilizing nature which is the source of the food, fiber and fuel human activities depend on.

Through working with the SBTN, companies can be sure their action will be guided by resources developed by experts from the world’s leading environmental NGOs, governmental organizations, purpose-driven consultancies, and society-minded business coalitions. The work of the SBTN is grounded in the best available science defining what is necessary to do “enough” to stay within Earth’s limits. We will be working with businesses to ‘road test’ draft methods and ensure that SBTs for nature are practical and intuitive for businesses.

SBTs will enable companies to play their part in halting nature loss while improving business performance. They can already get started by mapping their value chains and assessing their impacts and dependencies on freshwater, biodiversity, land and the ocean in major locations in which they operate. They can also disclose their environmental data in a standardized format. And by looking for opportunities to make a positive contribution to restoring balance to the Earth’s natural systems, they will already be moving in the right direction.

Then, by following the guidance and setting targets, companies can be sure that the action they take to tackle nature loss will be the most efficient approach for their business. They can do this while knowing they are doing at least enough to ensure we remain within Earth’s limits while meeting society’s needs.