Despite nearly nine in 10 executives stating that biodiversity is important to the planet, protecting it remains at the bottom of the corporate agenda, as greater emphasis is currently being placed on tackling climate change, according to the Capgemini Research Institute’s latest report, Preserving the fabric of life: Why biodiversity loss is as urgent as climate change. Currently, just 16 per cent of organizations have already assessed the impact on biodiversity of their supply chain and only 20 per cent for their operations.
Though climate change and biodiversity loss are closely interlinked, the immediate focus for most organizations is presently directed towards climate concerns, with a majority of executives believing that biodiversity holds a lower rank in priority compared to climate change. In fact, just over half of executives globally believe it is not the role of a private company to address biodiversity, just to follow biodiversity regulation – and this even reaches 78 per cent in Italy and 75 per cent in Japan.
Perceived lack of urgency amongst global executives
Nearly half (47 per cent) of executives regard biodiversity loss as a medium-term risk for their businesses and 30 per cent perceive it as a long-term risk (2050) while just 17 per cent view it as an immediate concern – with significant regional differences in the perception of the biodiversity emergency. Ultimately, the report estimates that global corporate investment in biodiversity preservation represents less than five per cent of what is needed from all stakeholders (public and private) in the next 10 years to reverse damage to the biodiversity ecosystem.
Strategies to protect biodiversity are lacking
Organizations are increasingly aware of the catastrophic consequences of the loss of biodiversity and other related ecosystem damage. However, only a quarter of organizations have a biodiversity strategy, with Australia (15 per cent), Germany (16 per cent), Canada (17 per cent) and Italy (18 per cent) lagging behind. These strategies may include initiatives such as investing in circular practices, developing science-based targets, or considering biodiversity impact on investment decisions. On average, land preservation or restoration projects are a bigger focus than freshwater and ocean projects. Furthermore, only 16% of organizations have completed an impact assessment of their supply chain on biodiversity and just 20 per cent have done the same for their operations.
In general, executives agree on the importance of conserving biodiversity but 59% of those surveyed find that the complexities surrounding biodiversity create challenges. Unlike carbon, which is easy to define, measure and document, biodiversity is more difficult to determine in terms of quantification, observation, and consequently, impact evaluation. These complexities are attributed to the absence of globally uniform benchmarks for gauging and overseeing impacts on biodiversity, ambiguities in goal setting, and a skills gap in the biodiversity talent market.
“Every business depends on biodiversity and ecosystems: whether it is direct inputs such as water or fibers, or ‘ecosystem services’ like water regulation or soil fertility, a thriving and functioning biosphere is critical to human well-being, wider sustainability goals as well as economic growth and stability. However, many organizations underestimate their direct impact on biodiversity loss, and their responsibility in protecting and restoring it,” says Cyril Garcia, head of Global Sustainability Services and Corporate Responsibility and Group Executive Board Member at Capgemini.
“It’s time for businesses to proactively address the issue and get ahead of mandatory regulations that are on their way, especially as many solutions and frameworks such as the Task Force on Nature-related risks Disclosure and regenerative practices are already available to help protect biodiversity. Collaboration, investment and innovation will all be key to helping organizations identify and implement strategies for biodiversity protection and preservation.”
Biodiversity integral to supply chains
Many organizations have made biodiversity an integral consideration within their supply chain: of the executives surveyed, 58 per cent say their organization has updated their supplier code of conduct to include biodiversity considerations, while about half mention that their organizations are investing in deforestation-free supply chains and require sustainable forest management practices from their suppliers.
When exploring specific industries, the consumer goods sector emerges with the highest percentage (26 per cent) of organizations that have already evaluated the impact of their operations on biodiversity, whereas the public/government sector exhibits the lowest percentage (14 per cent) in this regard. In the context of supply chains, the retail sector claims the highest completion rate (26 per cent) for impact assessments, whereas the agriculture and forestry sectors indicate the lowest completion rate (10 per cent).
Circular economy practices prove most popular
Necessary to addressing the biodiversity crisis are changes at organizational, behavioral, and cultural levels, with the adoption of circularity playing a critical role. Almost two thirds of executives say their organization has implemented circular economy practices, such as recycling and reusing and over half of organizations are taking steps to mitigate negative impacts on land and water.
Technology will play a critical role in tackling biodiversity challenges
A key part of the future of biodiversity conservation and restoration will include the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions alongside blockchain technology and sensors to simplify the monitoring and tracing of diverse populations, encompassing animals, birds, and plants. Leveraging AI and robotics can aid in species tracking while minimizing disruptions to the surrounding biodiversity.
Synthetic biology will also be part of the solution to some of the most severe threats to the environment including reducing chemical and plastic pollution. In fact, almost three quarters of executives agree that digital technologies will also be key to their organization’s biodiversity efforts. To that end, organizations are particularly investing in AI and machine learning (31 per cent), followed by 3D printing (30 per cent), and robotics (28 per cent).
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