July 3, 2023
Forbes articles

Counting on biodiversity

Businesses have a critical role to play in protecting our planet.

The world is facing an urgent need to invest in our planet, and businesses have a critical role to play in conserving nature. But how can businesses understand the relationship between their bottom line and nature and take the necessary steps to reduce their environmental impact? I am a member of a working group that supports businesses in carrying out their stewardship responsibilities to protect nature and biodiversity. In our working group, I see all of the latest pilots and standards for nature accounting and biodiversity and believe that biodiversity accounting can help businesses achieve this goal. Let's explore what it is, why it's important and how businesses can get started on their biodiversity journey.

What is accounting for nature?

Biodiversity accounting measures changes in the diversity of species and ecosystems over time. It involves gathering data on species variety, abundance, distribution and habitats. Biodiversity accounting is crucial for monitoring ecosystem health and informing conservation and management decisions. It can be used at different scales and involves various methods such as field surveys, remote sensing and computer modeling. By tracking changes in biodiversity, researchers, policymakers and business leaders can identify areas of concern and protect vulnerable species and habitats.

Biodiversity accounting involves several steps. First, the study area and scope of the assessment must be defined, and the species and ecosystems to be included must be identified. Data on the variety, abundance, distribution and habitats of the selected species and ecosystems are then collected and analyzed to assess changes in biodiversity over time. The results are interpreted to identify areas of concern and opportunities for conservation and management actions and are communicated to relevant stakeholders and decision-makers. Additional steps may be included depending on the specific context and objectives of the assessment.

Why is this important for businesses?

Nature is our most powerful carbon cycling and storage system, and businesses must understand how their operations and value chains impact and depend on nature. The World Economic Forum estimates that about half of global GDP is either highly or moderately dependent on nature.

Human activities such as deforestation, pollution and climate change are putting increasing pressure on our natural resources and threatening the diversity of life on our planet. Biodiversity accounting can help us better understand the impact of these activities and make informed decisions to protect and preserve our natural ecosystems.

Biodiversity accounting is also important for businesses and organizations that rely on natural resources. By understanding the impact of their activities on the environment, they can make more informed decisions about how to manage their operations in a sustainable way and reduce their impact on the natural world. It's important for businesses to step up and do their part in conserving nature and managing the impact nature has on their operations.

What are some of the challenges?

Biodiversity accounting is a complex process that requires businesses to understand the location, scale and various aspects of nature, including ecosystem assets, function and services, impact drivers, risks and opportunities, etc. According to The Economist, "One of the main barriers to taking action is the multitude of definitions, reporting standards, and metrics that make it challenging to guide progress consistently. A more practical framework and initiative to follow is the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD)."

The TNFD framework aims to help businesses understand their nature-related issues, dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities. The framework complements other reporting guidance, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and the standards being set by the International Sustainability Standards Board. This framework can help businesses connect the dots and cut through the multitude of definitions, reporting standards and metrics and take the first step toward biodiversity accounting.

How can businesses get started? usinesses can start their biodiversity journey by scoping their assessment, reviewing existing data and building an understanding of material nature issues so they can understand how they are dependent on nature and how those dependencies create risks.

By taking the first step towards understanding their impact on nature, businesses can start to prioritize locations, identify high-impact areas and take targeted action to protect our planet. There are many resources available to help you get started from scientific organizations to environmental NGOs. One resource that may be particularly helpful is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. The GBIF is an international organization that provides free and open access to biodiversity data from around the world. By accessing their data, you can gain insights into biodiversity trends and patterns in different regions and ecosystems.

Another resource is the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, which brings together organizations from around the world to develop and promote biodiversity indicators. These indicators can help you measure and monitor changes in biodiversity over time and provide a standardized way of reporting on biodiversity data.

In conclusion, biodiversity accounting can be a critical tool for protecting and preserving our planet's precious ecosystems. By measuring and monitoring changes in biodiversity over time, we can better understand the impact of human activities on the natural world and make informed decisions to manage our natural resources in a sustainable and responsible way.

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