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Triple Bottom Line In Business: People, Planet, Profit Sustainable development goals can only be realized when the ground reality unfolds in tandem to the utopian policies deployed by subject matter experts

By Ranjit Barthakur

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In today's day and age, there is a dire need for business to transition into a nature-positive future. According to the report, The Future of Nature and Business, 15 nature-positive transitions by businesses can generate $10.1 trillion and 395 million jobs. Scientists have continuously been warning about the vulnerable spot important biomes such as the Amazon have been coerced into, rendering them at the cusp of irreversible tipping points. We need to ponder on our role in this battle, both, at a global leadership, as well as at an individual level. There is a need to devise a long term sustainable solution as the pandemic is not only an unprecedented clarion call but also an opportunity to deploy a reset button.

Research shows that $44 trillion of economic value generation, more than half of the world's total GDP, is moderately or highly dependent on nature. Global leaders need to take cognizance of the urgent need to juxtapose the Industrial and economic revolution together. Sustainable development goals can only be realized when the ground reality unfolds in tandem to the utopian policies deployed by subject matter experts. The decades marred by brazen attempts to cover up ecological degradation by profit-driven industries in a capitalist society has left our ecological structure vulnerable and the people who depend on the environment for their daily livelihood, in a doubly marginalized position.

Ecology in economy: A new business landscape

Around 60 per cent of India's GDP depends heavily on healthy, functioning ecosystems. Countries especially in Europe are pushing for a green recovery, recognizing that the COVID-19 economic crisis is an unprecedented moment for an economic reset. To build sustainable growth for the future, European Green Deal must be central to a resilient recovery after COVID-19. The Green Deal deploys a new growth strategy for the EU, which aims to garner the twin benefits of stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the green transition in a cost efficient way. For instance, over 30 per cent of Germany's COVID-19 recovery plan, for instance, invests in renewables and electric devices. We need to focus on establishing a strong foundation for these changes. Attention must be given on creating sustainable businesses and livelihoods in rural communities.

The government must devise a strategy to build self-sustaining enterprises that keep ecology as a central part of the business nexus. Well-managed forests offer a nature-based solution to the society's immediate needs such as poverty, health and economic recovery among rural communities. Forests also provide long-term benefits to tackle water scarcity, climate change, building energy and food security. Thus, ecology and forests need to be at the heart of green recovery. The key is to create a redefined paradigm with ecology at the center-stage of economic discourse and creating a nature-action agenda for the "Ecology in the Economy' framework. This nature-action Agenda is about building established recovery programmes with systematic policy and governmental intervention. Here are some insight that converge into a systematic economic recovery plan.

● Setting out policy and targeted investments for key sectors

● Design measures for future proof jobs

● Emphasising on net zero emissions for a fast-tracked recovery

● Rethinking agriculture to ensure it protects rather than strips soils

● Establishing recovery programmes to improve livelihoods and build resilience of forest dependent people and local indegeneous communities.

Policy Landscape

Every year, we extract an estimated 55 billion tonne of fossil energy, minerals, metals and biomass from the Earth, according to a report by OECD. At the current rate of deforestation, it is estimated that 5-10 per cent of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade. Under the aegis of mass media and social media channels, a consumer today is more aware of butchering of biodiversity compared with earlier generations. With a catalysed paradigmatic shift in the environmental framework, owing to the rise of the conscious consumer, a long-term solution can be garnered through an amalgamation of nature and economics, aka, Naturenomics.

According to the World Economic Forum, transforming the food, land and ocean use system has the potential to create business opportunities worth almost $3.6 trillion and 191 million new jobs over the last 10 years. Policies which bring forth a shift from industrial to regenerative agroforestry will allow for carbon sequestration in the soil at a rate sufficient enough to mitigate the climate crisis.

A new, more holistic and symbiotic perspective must be adopted for the environment impact assessment, i.e, measuring businesses and projects not just by their negative impacts and mitigation, but also weighting their positive environment and social impact. Business responsibility index, green accounting, natural capital investment and sustainable supply-value chains are some of the major innovative changes seen to address environmental degradation issues. We must move away from traditional methods and thought processes. Decarbonizing the economy will be a crucial step towards attaining sustainable development goals. This phenomenon primarily refers to divesting from fossil fuels and rather investing in renewables. Ultimately, however, to build climate resilience we need to think beyond creating carbon sinks by not only protecting but also rebuilding forests using endemic species.

Building a Circular Economy

Rural livelihoods especially in India's north-east region are stuck in a quagmire of agrarian distress compounded by the ongoing pandemic. The rural and forest-fringe communities are prone to extreme weather conditions and fragile financial state. The new paradigm, "Ecology is Economy" which works in tandem to the triple bottom line approach, must be brought to fore. Inclusion, trans-national governance, integrated policy approaches and strategies to navigate the green recovery must collaborate while working towards collective action for "Ecology in Economy'. For a nature-positive reset, the intervening body must:

● Promote actions to halt deforestation

● Increase forest area through investment in forestry-related jobs as part of nature-positive reset packages-afforestation, reforestation, conservation and agroforestry.

● Promote natural and ecological farming methods in small and marginal farming families.

Given the existing situation, industry leaders have to come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 and nature degradation are interlinking factors in the long run. By proactively transitioning to the Green Recovery Plan, one supports not just sustainable growth in terms of economy, but also biodiversity conservation, thereby mitigating the disastrous aftermath of climate change which is upon us.

Ranjit Barthakur

Founder, Balipara Foundation

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