Nature and Biodiversity

5 ways businesses can implement the new Global Biodiversity Framework

Yellow bee on a purple wildflower. The Global Biodiversity Framework sets out ambitious targets and businesses play a key role.

The Global Biodiversity Framework sets out ambitious targets and businesses play a key role. Image: Unsplash/Scotty Turner

Marie Quinney
Lead, Impact Measurement and Management - Nature Action Agenda, World Economic Forum Geneva
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  • The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) sets ambitious targets to conserve nature and ensure its sustainable use and businesses are essential to its implementation.
  • A key step for businesses to successfully contribute to the GBF is transparency and awareness of their impact on nature, reducing their adverse effects while ramping up good practices.
  • Businesses would do well to collaborate with others and ensure they include indigenous people and local communities within decision-making.

The ground-breaking Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) was signed in December 2022 by 196 parties committed to halting biodiversity loss by 2030. After four years of negotiations, the GBF sets ambitious goals with 23 targets for the conservation and sustainable use of nature.

Businesses are key to implementing the GBF – target 15 calls for them to “progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity.” The stakes are high and the risks of biodiversity loss are well documented, with half of the world’s global domestic product highly or moderately dependent on nature. Nevertheless, there is a significant economic opportunity, circa $10.1 trillion annually, to be seized by taking the right action now.

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5 ways to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework

Here are five ways businesses can lead the transition to a nature-positive economy.

1. Assess and disclose

The Global Biodiversity Framework sends a strong signal for all companies to start understanding and disclosing biodiversity-related information. Although economic activity significantly impacts nature, corporate transparency remains low.

Only 5% of companies have assessed their impacts on nature, with less than 1% understanding their dependencies. Companies need to gain a science-based view of their impact to identify biodiversity hotspots and the underlying drivers putting their operations at risk.

Target 15, therefore, outlines the first step: for all large businesses and financial institutions to “regularly monitor, assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity.” That includes assessing the impacts of their operations, products and services on biodiversity and reporting on their progress.

Businesses need robust biodiversity performance indicators to do so and should integrate them into existing governance mechanisms so they receive the same attention as financial targets. The guidance, High-level Business Actions on Nature, outlines the tools and frameworks for businesses to assess and measure, commit and set targets, take actions and publicly disclose progress.

2. Reduce the bad

Companies should avoid degrading nature or significantly reduce their negative impact. Target 7 of the Global Biodiversity Framework calls for reducing pollution; target 16 calls for reducing global food waste.

Businesses can address their dependency on natural resources by investing in environmentally-friendly technologies and practices. Closed-loop recycling and cradle-to-cradle approaches, for example, can vastly reduce the need to extract natural resources and cut end-of-life waste, thereby decreasing their impact on biodiversity.

These actions also provide significant financial returns. In the automotive sector, for example, maximizing the reuse and recycling of materials could save $870 billion a year by 2030.

Around 40% of the world’s food is lost annually and the agriculture, food and hospitality sectors must act. Up to half of all food that doesn’t reach our plates is lost at or near the farm, making tackling food waste a business imperative. Measures can be taken production side, including more accurate forecasting of demand and adopting sustainable crop management approaches to prevent and reduce environmental risks to crops.

On the retail and consumption side, businesses can invest in improved storage and transportation methods and technology to increase product traceability and map food-loss hotspots. Simpler measures such as portion control and repurposing leftovers can significantly cut waste and mustn’t be overlooked.

Up to half of all food that doesn’t reach our plates is lost at or near the farm, making tackling food waste a business imperative.

Marie Quinney, Lead, Impact Measurement and Management - Nature Action Agenda | Xinqing Lu, Community Lead, Champions for Nature

3. Increase the good

A business-as-usual scenario presents an inherent risk to businesses, especially resource-dependent ones. While the diagnosis may seem dire, thankfully, nature can regenerate when given the space and time to do so.

Target 3 of the Global Biodiversity Framework calls for restoring at least 30% of ecosystems. Abundant biodiversity is a strong indicator of a healthy ecosystem, increasing business resilience. By investing in protected areas and conservation initiatives, businesses can allow nature to bounce back, protecting the ecosystems they and their consumer base depend on.

Target 10 calls for sustainable land use and resource management to provide benefits far beyond biodiversity. For example, if regenerative ocean farming was practised across 5% of US waters, it could absorb 135 million tonnes of carbon and create millions of additional jobs.

In addition, companies can adopt sustainable procurement policies for mismanaged commodities that have a lasting impact on nature – e.g. wood, palm oil, soy and beef – by imposing strict sustainability criteria on suppliers. Third-party certification schemes, such as the Forest Stewardship Council, are useful tools to identify and signal sustainable management.

Businesses that act on biodiversity will benefit from addressing supply chain risks while fostering trust with consumers and stakeholders.

4. Be inclusive and just

Successful implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework can’t occur by overlooking people’s role in a given ecosystem. As such, target 22 of the GBF calls for the involvement of Indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs) in decision-making, typically pushed to the periphery.

Indigenous people comprise 5% of the population but are vital stewards of an estimated 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. At least 32% of land and associated inland waters (excluding Antarctica) is owned or governed by IPLCs and they have been implementing the solutions we need to adopt.

By making stakeholder consultations and community engagement standard practice, businesses will benefit from indigenous knowledge. They will also mitigate their impact on local communities by ensuring respect for their rights and livelihoods.

This approach is especially necessary for businesses in the consumer goods, food, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, extractive industries, infrastructure and water utilities sectors.

5. Don’t do it alone

Isolated efforts to safeguard nature will prove futile. A race to the top must be fuelled by collaboration. Businesses should pursue partnerships and join initiatives to pool resources and knowledge and overcome barriers, such as cost and access to technology. Notable examples include the Champions for Nature, the Natural Capital Coalition and the Business for Nature coalition.

Companies can also contribute to public consultations and working groups for ongoing framework development, such as through the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum, the Science-Based Targets Network corporate engagement programme and GRI public consultation.

Specialized initiatives and research can also support companies dealing with industry-specific environmental issues related to the Global Biodiversity Framework. Organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) – a CEO-led community of sustainable businesses – Business for Nature and TNFD, among others, are working with businesses to develop sector-specific guidance this year.

In addition, coalitions and initiatives that support transitions in sectors such as textile, agriculture and consumer goods are also gaining ground.

Nature loss is a material risk to corporate longevity but the high ambition set during the COP15 will wane without rapid and collective action. Thankfully, numerous tools, communities, frameworks and standards exist to guide the private sector.

Businesses that lead on implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework can enter new markets as they develop new products and business models, improve their value proposition and public image, and reduce operational costs.

By halting biodiversity loss, businesses will protect their long-term interests and contribute to an economy where businesses, society and the natural world thrive.

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