In a significant step towards addressing the global biodiversity crisis, the Science-Based Targets Network (SBTN) has introduced a pioneering framework that allows businesses to assess their impact on nature loss. This initiative aims to bring the issue of nature loss into the boardroom, similar to the way climate footprints have been incorporated into corporate strategies.
While the climate crisis has received considerable attention, the biodiversity crisis has often been overlooked, primarily due to the lack of available data on how companies contribute to nature loss. The SBTN's framework provides companies with guidelines for reporting their impacts on nature, marking a new frontier in corporate environmental reporting.
Recognizing the urgency of the interconnected challenges facing humanity, Erin Billman, executive director of SBTN, stressed the need to address both climate change and nature loss simultaneously. She emphasized that stabilizing the climate is impossible without halting and reversing nature loss, and vice versa.
The United Nations has called for businesses to assess and disclose their impacts on nature by 2030. The SBTN's framework aims to ensure a consensus on how companies can achieve this objective. By reporting their impacts on land degradation, freshwater use, and pollution, companies can identify the areas where they should focus their efforts to reduce their impact on nature. Reporting systems for oceans and species abundance are also under development and set to be released in the near future.
Building on the success of over 2,600 companies that currently report their carbon emissions using science-based targets, the SBTN's framework seeks to encourage businesses to account for nature in the same way. To demonstrate their commitment, 17 leading companies, including H&M, Kering, Nestlé, and Tesco, will submit data on their impacts on nature by the end of this year. These targets will undergo validation against science-based criteria starting in early 2024. Other companies are encouraged to follow suit and submit their data, with validation processes commencing next year.
Sophus zu Ermgassen, an ecological economist from the University of Oxford, hailed the development of a protocol for companies to set targets to reduce their impacts on nature as progress. However, he cautioned that voluntary disclosures alone cannot bring about the necessary ecological changes and reduction in the impacts of business models. Zu Ermgassen emphasized the importance of strong state action and regulatory environments that incentivize sustainable practices and discourage environmentally damaging activities.
While the framework represents a significant milestone, it is acknowledged that there are challenges ahead. Unlike climate impacts, which can be measured through greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity impacts rely on multiple metrics and data sources that lack consensus even among ecologists. Companies will need to set specific targets based on the nature of their operations, such as freshwater use, pollution, land use change, and climate change.
The SBTN's framework, developed in collaboration with over 100 companies, is expected to be completed by 2025. It is complemented by the efforts of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures, which is creating a framework to manage and disclose companies' impacts on nature. These comprehensive frameworks are essential in aligning business practices with the vision of a global society committed to sustainable development and the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The introduction of the SBTN's framework marks a significant stride towards integrating nature into corporate decision-making. By enabling companies to assess their impact on nature and set science-based targets, this initiative empowers businesses to take meaningful action in halting and reversing nature loss. It reinforces the urgent need for collaboration between governments, civil society, and the private sector to build a sustainable future that upholds.
More information: https://sciencebasedtargetsnetwork.org