Helen Finlay
Hugo Rosa da Conceicao

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11 June 2020
Unlocking Nature’s Potential
Photo Credit: CDP
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Detailed information on how companies are carrying out Nature-based Solutions within their operations is lagging; corporate environmental disclosure needs to be more transparent and common, including for NbS.

To harness private sector potential on the implementation of NbS and be part of a coherent global response to climate and biodiversity, there must be adequate and science-backed targets outlining the direction of action.

The world is facing multiple, interdependent global crises, where dislocation in one area can ripple through and impact many others. COVID-19 comes just as the public was beginning, slowly, to come to terms with the climate crisis and its far-reaching implications. The pandemic highlights how interconnected we are, and how impossible it is to disentangle the problems we all face in a globalized world. Holistic approaches to these problems are needed and they are needed fast. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), an umbrella term to describe a wide array of ecosystem-based actions that incorporate the natural environment to mitigate climate change and ensure ecosystem sustainability, has grown in prominence in recent years as potentially being such an approach.  

Many companies are increasingly aware of the impact their unsustainable commodity production has on the environment and are recognizing that business cannot thrive in a world of environmental stress, poverty, and uncertainty. Some of those companies are starting to plan and implement preventive and restorative actions within their operations, with NbS providing a cost-effective tool to create a seemingly more responsible and sustainable forest-risk commodity value chain.

Detailed information on how companies are carrying out NbS within their operations, however, is still lagging. In a recent briefing, CDP analysed its 2019 Forests disclosure data on 543 companies that gathered information about the integration of NbS into their operations. We found that only 15% of companies reported having implemented any form of NbS, as well as a lack of consistency amongst those who did. The results spoke a clear message: we have a long way to go to encourage more widespread and ambitious implementation of NbS. As stated in the recent #TogetherWithNature statement, NbS must be considered a complementary approach to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, in addition to following a pathway of decarbonization, enacting comprehensive climate policies and enforcing proper accountability.

In the last year, NbS has become increasingly prominent in policy discussions on the environmental crisis. They featured heavily in the UN Climate Action Summit, particularly in the NbS Coalition co-led by China and New Zealand. At COP 25 in December, NbS were constituted a central theme in the high-level segments and the Santiago Call for Action on Forests. NbS are also set to take centre-stage in the negotiations of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. For the private sector, it pays to be transparent, as businesses that disclose and take leading action on climate change can better identify and measure their environmental risks and opportunities. Data from STOXX has shown that CDP’s ‘A List’ has outperformed its global benchmark by an average of 5.3% per annum over a 7-year period.

The private sector presents a largely untapped opportunity for the implementation of NbS, when implemented in accordance with the best available science-based targets and with appropriate safeguards. As the COVID-19 crisis recedes, policymakers should seize the political momentum for the 2021 – 2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and recognize the role and participation of non-state actors in driving NbS, creating regulatory environments that are both institutionally and financially conducive for all stakeholders to take ambitious, measurable action. To start, they could:

1. Encourage corporate environmental disclosure

Disclosure is the bedrock of action. Corporate environmental disclosure needs to be more transparent and common, including for NbS. For this to occur, there needs to be improved regulatory frameworks to promote transparency in supply chains, fostering the integration of environmental protection assessments in business operations.

2. Mainstream NbS into legislation and regulatory frameworks for climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable development

Situating NbS as a cross-cutting policy tool within NDCs, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and the SDGs (especially SDGs 12, 13 and 15) would not only help with the implementation of projects but would promote more accurate measurement of their effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

3. Improve the criteria, metrics and measurement of NbS

Whilst NbS are present in the majority of NDCs submitted to date, most of these do not include quantifiable targets. In order to harness private sector potential on the implementation of NbS and be part of a coherent global response to climate and biodiversity, there must be adequate and science-backed targets outlining the direction of action.

International policy efforts have multiple windows of opportunity to introduce integrated solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss, and human development. All these issues are underpinned by our relationship with nature. Policymakers and corporate actors must engage in mutually supportive, ambitious, and carefully implemented action, to ensure that the potential of nature to be an important part of the solution to the current crises is unlocked.

This article was authored by Helen Finlay, Senior Global Policy Manager, and Hugo Rosa da Conceicao, Global Policy Officer, CDP.

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