Biodiversity was top of the international agenda again last week. On January 11th, world leaders gathered virtually for the fourth edition of the One Planet Summit organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank. Around 30 leaders, government officials, businesses and heads of international organizations participated in the summit to strengthen the link between the fight against climate change and the preservation of biodiversity. We sat down with Edith Martin, Quantis’ Biodiversity Lead, to discuss the key takeaways and what they mean for business.
Q: All eyes were on biodiversity at the One Planet Summit. What were the takeaways?
Edith Martin (EM): 2020 was supposed to be a big year for biodiversity with COP15 and the promise of a Paris-style agreement for nature. Of course, COVID-19 put these on hold, but it also put the nature crisis on the agenda like never before. Naturally, there was a big focus on the link between the pandemic and biodiversity loss, and the far-reaching consequences of environmental degradation. But there was also a major emphasis on solutions. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on business and government leaders to utilize COVID-19 recovery to change course and tap into the business opportunities presented by nature-based solutions — $10.1 trillion in business opportunity and millions of new jobs to be exact.
The headline-making news from the summit is the commitment from 50+ countries to protect 30% of the planet, including land and sea, over the next decade to halt species extinction and address climate change issues. As we often observe, there is no shortage of commitment, but it’s going to take more than conversation to get us where we need to be.
Businesses shouldn't wait to see how these commitments play out – there’s a big opportunity here for corporate leadership and there’s no time to waste
Q: What should companies do to ramp up this momentum?
EM: Businesses shouldn’t wait to see how these commitments play out — there’s a big opportunity here for corporate leadership and there’s no time to waste. We’re already seeing companies join forces to tackle biodiversity loss collectively, through initiatives like the Science Based Targets Network’s (SBTN) targets for nature, which provides guidance for companies on how to to set ambitious targets to tackle nature loss and encourages industry collaboration. As part of SBTN, Quantis advised on the initial guidance on nature-related metrics and expects methods to be released in 2021. We urge businesses to join the network to participate in industry-wide knowledge sharing — collaboration is key to scale our impact.
At the same time, we recognize that a lot of companies aren’t sure how to get started or might not fully understand the risks.
Q: How can businesses get biodiversity-ready?
EM: The first step is to take stock and understand the role of biodiversity in their business and pinpoint where their company’s impacts truly lie with a biodiversity impact assessment. Many companies either don’t think they have an impact on biodiversity or misunderstand where their impacts are. They’re often surprised when they find out their hotpots aren’t necessarily where they would have guessed! From there, we can set appropriate targets and lay out an action plan to meet them. By breaking it down into steps and seeing how biodiversity fits into the bigger picture, it becomes much easier to tackle.
Ecotone is a great example of a food company we’ve worked with to help better understand, measure and rank their hotspots to be able to prioritize actions. Even as a company that is ahead in terms of its biodiversity journey, the results of the assessment surprised them! This really highlights why the impact assessment is such a critical first step.
Q: Sounds like biodiversity is set to stay on the global agenda this year. What should we expect next?
EM: We expect to see even more companies join the chorus of biodiversity commitments. The real challenge is to translate global goals and ambition into company-specific targets. The Science-Based Targets for Nature Initial Guidance for Business is a great place to start.
The Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD COP 15, is expected to take place in May 2021 in Kunming, China after having been postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. We’ll certainly be hearing more on the 30×30 commitment mentioned earlier.
In the meantime, businesses need to put biodiversity front and center this year. We can’t afford to think about biodiversity as a “nice to have” — it goes hand-in-hand with business.