Nature and Biodiversity

Businesses must do more to protect biodiversity: Here are key steps to a nature-positive future

Tayrona National Park, Colombia, Magdalena

This year's International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 focuses on how all stakeholders - including businesses – can support the implementation of the Biodiversity Plan. Image: Photo by Berend Leupen on Unsplash

Anna-Maria Fyfe Hug
Communications Specialist, Nature Action Agenda, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • Business leaders must scale up action to fast-track the transition towards a nature-positive future, unlocking new opportunities for organisations and making them more resilient.
  • Recent guidance outlines the priority actions for specific sectors, including household and personal care products, cement and concrete, and chemicals.
  • Many companies are already working to protect biodiversity, but these specific sector-level actions could help businesses contribute to the collective goal of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030.

Building a 'nature-positive' world means shifting how nature is viewed, replacing the old mantra of simply minimizing negative impacts with a new approach that restores, protects and values nature.

The concept of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 is the mission at the heart of the Biodiversity Plan or Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Adopted during COP15, this plan to see the world “living in harmony with nature by 2050” includes four goals and 23 targets. Target 15 explicitly highlights the need for mandatory assessment and disclosure by businesses.

The theme for the UN's 2024 International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 is "Be part of the Plan". This is a call to action for all stakeholders – including businesses – to support the implementation of the Biodiversity Plan. This means focusing on how corporate leaders can transform their businesses to help secure a nature-positive world.

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Nature underpins our global economy. Over half of the world's GDP—$44 trillion—is moderately or highly dependent on nature through the use of water, minerals, and climate regulation, for example. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2024 signals that environmental risks make up half of the top 10 risks over the next 10 years and ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse together as the third biggest global risk for humanity.

Our research shows that investing in a nature-positive economy could also unlock $10.1 trillion of business opportunities annually and create 395 million jobs by 2030 through, for example, the use of regenerative agriculture, sustainable forest management, and the development of more transparent supply chains. This would help transform the three economic systems responsible for almost 80% of nature loss: food, infrastructure, and energy.

To help businesses contribute to a nature-positive trajectory, the World Economic Forum, with support from consultancy Oliver Wyman, has developed three sector-specific reports focusing on household and personal care products, cement and concrete and chemicals. These reports are part of a series on Sector Actions in collaboration with Business for Nature and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The series explains how 12 different global sectors can benefit nature and biodiversity.

1. Household and personal care products

Household and personal care products improve our well-being and living standards. The sector also generates approximately $700 billion in annual revenues, according to research by consultancy Oliver Wyman. But this can come at the expense of nature.

These businesses use significant amounts of water and other natural resources, cause land use change, pollution (especially plastics pollution) and greenhouse gas emissions.

To reduce their impact on nature, companies in the household and personal care sector must:

  • improve water stewardship;
  • source raw materials and feedstocks responsibly;
  • influence customer behaviour on product use and disposal;
  • support nature conservation and restoration;
  • expand circularity practices, innovation and collaboration.

By encouraging companies to adopt strategies like selling products in reusable packaging, for example, these five priority actions could help the household and personal care sector unlock $62 billion per year of additional value by 2030.

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2. Construction materials: cement and concrete

Concrete – which is primarily produced using cement – is the second most-consumed material in the world after water, and no scalable substitutes are currently available. But with two out of three people likely to be living in urban areas by 2050, concrete production is expected to continue to grow to meet demand for commercial and residential buildings, as well as public infrastructure.

While some companies in the sector already operate under strong regulatory frameworks, the sector continues to have impact on nature through greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use and ecosystem disturbance due to quarrying activities. For example, concrete production is responsible for 9% of global industrial water use.

To reduce their impact on nature, companies in the construction materials sector must:

  • improve water stewardship;
  • reduce emissions;
  • strengthen reclamation, rehabilitation and biodiversity management;
  • expand circularity practices, for example by using demolition waste in cement production;
  • accelerate innovation in areas like feedstocks and product offerings.

If companies in the construction materials sector undertake these five priority actions, they could unlock $44 billion per year of additional value by 2030 with changes such as adopting new technologies and manufacturing practices.

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3. Chemicals

Chemicals are the building blocks of our daily lives and are used in nearly all industrial processes. Global chemical sales total around $4 trillion a year, providing essential materials for 95% of all manufactured goods worldwide.

However, the sector contributes to drivers of biodiversity loss such as pollution, carbon emissions, freshwater use and land conversion across its value chain stages. Like other industries, it also depends on environmental assets such as water supply, biomass and mineral and energy resources to function and grow.

To reduce their impact, companies in the chemical sector must:

  • reduce pollution risk and negative impacts, for example through product innovation, circularity and customer education;
  • increase manufacturing efficiency and use of renewables;
  • improve water stewardship;
  • source raw materials responsibly;
  • support nature conservation and restoration.

By undertaking these five priority actions, the chemicals sector could unlock $320 billion in annual business opportunities by 2030, through changes such as shifting to the use of recycled feedstocks.

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Looking ahead to Biodiversity COP16

There is no pathway to 1.5°C without addressing nature loss. Taking actions to avoid negative impacts on nature, as well as to improve its management and restore ecosystems, could help deliver over a third of the climate mitigation needed to achieve the Paris Agreement climate goals.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) will take place in Cali, Colombia from 21 October to 1 November 2024, with the theme “Peace with Nature”. CBD COP16 will provide an opportunity to accelerate action and show progress towards implementing the Biodiversity Plan.

Leading businesses must make their voices heard at CBD COP16. Many companies are already taking action to assess, commit, transform and disclose on nature by developing a nature strategy. These plans should incorporate the priority actions discussed above if businesses are to contribute to achieving the collective goal of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030.

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