How Your Company Can Move Toward 'Nature-Positivity' In 2022 Companies are merely an extension of the people that run them, and in order for humanity to weave a sustainable web for generations to come, our companies must take accountability today
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As environmental circumstances have become increasingly dire and legislation across the globe is being passed to try and clean up the mess that humans have made on this planet, a new movement known as "nature-positive' was born.
Nature-positive is a concept that works towards a better common future, implementing business models designed to move away from destruction and pollution, and instead replace these transgressions with practices based on regeneration, resilience, and recirculation. Encouraging us to think differently about our place in the world, nature-positive manifests a new paradigm where we give more than we take, hence being a "positive" on "nature". This notion looks to modernize practices by stimulating good governance, long-term stable societies, and healthy economies the world over.
It was found that over half of the world's total GDP is at moderate or severe risk due to nature loss, so it is imperative that companies move toward this nature-positivity goal. What is more, The Future of Nature and Business report found that with 15 systemic transitions, a nature-positive economy can unlock $10 trillion worth of business opportunities and create 395 million jobs by 2030—making for positive gains in the health of the planet as well as financial incentives.
Here's how your company can commit to being nature-positive in 2022.
The wellbeing of the environment needs to be at the core of your business
Science-based targets for a nature-positive trajectory are still under intense discussion, but from countries to companies, everyone is being called to action. As of today, the proposed quantitative targets for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fit into the following general framework: Zero loss of nature from 2020 onwards, nature-positive by 2030, and full recovery by 2050.
Seeing it's already 2022, it is obvious that the world has yet to graduate the first level of these goals in achieving "zero loss of nature from 2020 onwards'. Society has already been caught on the back foot, and so it is even more vital that we find ways to put these targets into practice.
In order to obtain these objectives, all businesses, across industries, need to get on board with making decisions that prioritize the wellbeing of the environment—trumping even that of financial gains, although as we mentioned earlier there is the potential to unlock some monetary acquisitions. Finite, incremental measurements aren't enough, and a revolutionary paradigm shift in the way companies think about business value must occur. "Green' needs to be a dual-purpose vernacular for both environmental and economic value in business, without one compromising the other.
The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) is helping to accelerate this process by creating fresh "nature-based' benchmarks for companies to aim towards via a simple framework. We have used their credible baseline to construct our tactic advice on how businesses need to adapt. Let's take a look at how these scientific metrics can apply to the reality of a business and the industry in which it exists.
Assess your company's impact in the reality of the supply chain
According to a report from McKinsey, most of the environmental impact associated with the consumer sector is embedded in supply chains, accounting for more than 80 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions and more than 90 per cent of the impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources.
By focusing the lens on the blueprint of their supply chains, companies can understand the natural and human resources they have been employing inefficiently at every stopping point. Businesses should consider every step of the production process -- from top to bottom -- to include a supplier's suppliers and even indirect operations, to truly calculate its total environmental impact. Keeping in mind the different levels of dependency on natural resources in the environmental, social, and economic categories is key as well in order to visualize the entirety of the company's environmental footprint.
Once a company knows where its disparities lie, it can start working towards mitigating their impacts. In order to truly achieve "net' nature positive, companies cannot continue to destroy nature in one place and just restore it elsewhere, something that could be criticized as "greenwashing'. Instead, a holistic approach with all-encompassing sustainability at the core of business decisions is necessary. Linking the company's supply-chain sustainability goals to the global sustainability agenda will also help to frame things up in the bigger picture.
Finally, no matter where a company falls on the size spectrum, it is important to make sure suppliers follow through. On the one hand, bigger companies have purchasing power in a capitalist economy that allows them to set the contingencies for suppliers. Larger enterprises should set high standards for suppliers' performance and halt business with suppliers that fall short.
On the other hand, smaller startups have the advantage of being agile and can adopt revolutionary ideas quickly because they are still setting their foundations. For smaller companies still building their businesses, don't be afraid to abandon certain suppliers for others with better environmental principles.
Set benchmarks: Less negative consequences and more positive impact
Once a company has taken the time to assess its pattern of impact, they then need to integrate nature positivity into their KPIs at every level.
First, businesses must identify what the main negative environmental impacts are within their industry. Understanding what the biggest, and most consistent environmental and societal dependencies are, including natural resources as well as people, will help companies frame up where their environmental footprint has the most weight. Knowing where these deficits cut the deepest—from the extraction of raw materials to post-consumer waste—companies can pinpoint the most relevant sustainable transitions for them personally.
There can be positive incentives in this awareness. For example, the growth in food demand and waste is projected to skyrocket because of the escalating population. Despite this, research has shown that returns of up to 14 times the initial investment can be achieved by businesses in the food industry that participate in the SDG goal of halving consumer food waste—presenting an annual opportunity of around $380 billion by 2030.
Next, companies need to adopt policies that lessen these environmental impacts, transcending these best practice protocols among their suppliers, customers, and other business partners. Through the SBTN guide, a company can set measurable targets across priority locations to best identify how much they can contribute to restoring essential environments. Implementing these evolved practices is only the pre-requisite—businesses then must hold their commitments accountable through public, credible platforms. Organizations such as the Founder Institute "For Progress" and Business For Nature both help to provide frameworks for this.
Last but certainly not least, companies need to be proactive in ways to avoid and reduce their negative environmental impacts—preventing deficits from ever happening in the first place. Companies should start exploring potential public-private cooperation opportunities across sectors so that they can find the most efficient and sustainable ways to conduct business. This means digging deeper into internal assessments and thinking innovatively on ways they can potentially utilize adjacent companies to recycle or upcycle materials needed for operations.
A nature positive step forward
A piece of wisdom from Native American Chief Seattle: "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it—whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
In order for businesses, the economic ecosystem they consist of, and the web of economies that make up our society at large to have longevity—achieving nature-positivity is a must.
Companies are merely an extension of the people that run them, and in order for humanity to weave a sustainable web for generations to come, our companies must take accountability today.