Four-in-five firms have no biodiversity strategy

08 November 2023 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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Despite talking a good game on climate change and sustainability, almost four-in-ten businesses do not believe biodiversity is important to the future of their firms. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of executives say their firm has a biodiversity strategy – in spite of the grave impacts the loss of biodiversity will have on preventing the heating of the planet.

Roughly defined, ‘biodiversity’ is a measure for the different kinds of life found in a particular area. It can include the variety of animal life, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria, each of which operates in a delicate balance that supports the future continuation of life in a particular habitat or environment. As such, biodiversity supports everything in nature that human life also needs to survive, from food to clean water, medicine – with many of the treatments now taken for granted derived from natural materials – and shelter.

As humans put increasing pressure on the planet, consuming more resources than ever before – stripping larger areas of land of their natural biodiversity for agriculture, or mining, while ramping up carbon emissions that make it harder for the remaining biodiversity to maintain its balance – there is a real risk of ecosystems and losing biodiversity.

Four-in-five firms have no biodiversity strategy

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2022 Living Planet Report, for example, there has been an average 69% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. Meanwhile, the 2019 Global Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported 1 million animal and plant species were now threatened with extinction – the highest number in human history. Should this situation continue, it will have major repercussions for human life on Earth, however disconnected from the natural world it perceives itself as.

Interestingly, however, more than one-third of business leaders don’t seem to think that declining crop yields, flooding, or mass migration that a loss of biodiversity will increasingly usher in around the world will impact their particular business. When Capgemini polled more than 1,800 executives across 12 countries and 15 industries, 86% of respondents claimed they understood biodiversity was important for ‘the planet’, but somehow that figure fell to 63% when asked if they thought biodiversity mattered to their (presumably Earth-based) business model.

Even more bizarrely, while a majority of executives said they thought biodiversity was important to their business, very few seemed to actually be acting on that belief. Just 24% of respondents indicated that their organisation had a biodiversity strategy, with the gap rising even further in different industries. For example, Capgemini found that 65% of executives from construction and real estate thought biodiversity was important to their company, but only 23% of their organisations had a biodiversity strategy.

Four-in-five firms have no biodiversity strategy

Some executives seemed to assert that this was because biodiversity efforts were simply taking a back-seat to their response to climate change. A 57% chunk said customers cared more about climate change than biodiversity, and 53% believed themselves that biodiversity was a lesser priority. Meanwhile, 47% felt it was a medium-term risk, which would not impact them before 2030 anyway. That might explain why firms are actively investing so little in it. By Capgemini’s reckoning, companies as a whole are only investing 0.17% of their annual revenues in biodiversity, with the largest firms performing worst. While they might put larger lump sums toward it, they contribute just 0.11% of revenues to the issue.

There are big problems with this approach, though. Not least that fighting biodiversity loss has already been identified as one of the simplest and most important ways the world can combat climate change itself. Peatlands – wetlands such as marshes and swamps – cover only 3% of the world’s land, for example, but they store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests, making their preservation key to preventing even more carbon oxidising and accelerating climate change. Meanwhile, ocean habitats such as seagrasses and mangroves can also sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at rates up to four times higher than terrestrial forests.

Even so, Capgemini’s study found that there is a lack of appetite to even prevent the loss of further biodiversity – let alone the restoration of it. The firm found that corporations are contributing less than 5% of the $711 billion per year needed to reverse biodiversity decline in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the world is spending $1.9 trillion – or 2% of global GDP – annually on subsidies that cause more biodiversity loss. As things stand, then, protecting biodiversity – and the welfare of the people tied to it – remains an uphill struggle, which businesses and governments need to urgently change their strategy towards.