Part three in a series of four articles by Svarmi on the risks and opportunities that companies around the world are facing in relation to their interactions with nature.
Nature positivity: A paradigm shift
Previous articles in our series have discussed how corporations can mitigate environmental risk, to ensure continued successful operations and compliance. Indeed, risk mitigation has been a foundational idea in shaping corporate social responsibility values for several decades. However, the “do no harm” paradigm has gradually been shifting as a new question has begun to shape environment, social and governance values in 2022 and beyond: What if instead of damage limitation, corporations can live in harmony with, and maybe even enhance and protect the natural environment?
In other words - what if corporations were nature positive?
The idea of nature positivity represents a fundamental shift in the way businesses and corporations interact with nature. In previous years local and national legislative agendas have placed a strong emphasis on simply reducing the impact of businesses upon nature. While such an approach is still being actively encouraged, the idea of nature positivity takes this one step further by asking one simple question - what if corporations go beyond the idea of simple damage limitation? What if, instead of minimizing their impact on the environment, corporations actually work to protect and enhance the ecosystems they operate within? In the words of The Biodiversity Consultancy, nature positivity “taps into the potential of businesses to contribute towards global goals to restore nature, stabilize our climate, and achieve a safe and prosperous future for all.”
The building blocks of nature positive
In order to make the transition to being nature positive, corporations must outline a clear strategy and follow it, taking direction from initiatives such as the Taskforce on Nature Related Financial Disclosures or from existing business frameworks such as the Natural Capital Protocol and the SBTN Initial Guidance for Business, which outline the following six steps for organizations::
- Assess and prioritize: Businesses should identify the aspects of nature (biodiversity, freshwater, land, oceans etc.) that are relevant to their operations and supply chain, and from this draw up a list of impacts, dependencies and opportunities for nature regeneration.
- Commit: Companies should commit to ambitious, time-bound, science-informed goals and targets to both halt and most importantly reverse the loss of nature.
- Measure and value: Businesses must find a way to accurately measure nature-based outcomes using accurate and verifiable data.
- Act: Companies must act to systematically apply nature positivity strategies across their entire value chain.
- Transform: Companies must work to achieve nature-positive outcomes across all spheres of control and influence, including policy, financing and capacity building.
- Disclose and report: Companies must ensure accurate reporting of nature positive credentials using the verifiable data collected during step 3.
Although the steps to achieving nature positivity appear comprehensive, it should be recognized that this journey is not always a simple one for corporations to follow in practice. Indeed, the recent report, “Are you ready for nature related disclosure?” has revealed that while some large companies are beginning to trial nature related assessments and monitoring that many are struggling simply due to knowledge gaps. Companies have reported particular difficulty engaging with step 3 of the framework where many have struggled to find a reliable method to map and quantify their use of natural resources with data that is robust enough to meet the reporting requirements detailed in step 6.
Nature positivity: An opportunity for business?
Many corporations have expressed doubt and even frustration that the global environmental agenda is rapidly changing, particularly in terms of compliance reporting. Indeed, this risk should not be understated: the World Economic Forum itself even acknowledges nature positivity as a “disruptive idea.” However, the opportunities that come from a measured transition are anticipated to far outweigh those of remaining “nature neutral”. The World Economic Forum has estimated that by following systemic transitions into nature positivity that corporations globally could generate up to $10.1 trillion in business value and create a further 395 million jobs by 2030, showing the commercial as well as environmental benefits of taking a nature positive approach.
Furthermore, public support for a nature positive approach has increased dramatically in the last few years, with the nature positive paradigm gaining the support of 126 Nobel prize laureates, more than 700 major global businesses and many faith and youth leaders. By pursuing nature positivity, corporations can establish their status as ahead of the social curve while tapping into the financial and business opportunities presented by this new standard.