‘Companies must be aware of biodiversity in value chains’

Sustainability7 Dec ’22 06:35Author: Bram van Eijndhoven

The UN Biodiversity Conference starts today in Montreal, Canada. Negotiations are underway on the global targets for biodiversity in the coming decades. There are many opportunities not only for governments but also for entrepreneurs to manage biodiversity in a smarter way.

‘This is the opportunity to restore our broken relationship with nature,’ says Werner Schouten, director of the Impact Economy Foundation and presenter on BNR’s podcast Koplopers. “It’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity because we’re going to set very important goals during this biodiversity summit.”

Big assignment

According to Schouten, the Netherlands has a big task: Research by ABN Amro and the Impact Institute, published last week, shows that the Dutch economy causes around 40 billion euros worth of damage to ecosystem services per year. It is around 2300 euros in damage per inhabitant per year that has not been settled. For example, you have to think about damage to biodiversity due to land use for cocoa, soy, raw materials that we use for laptops and buildings, and damage due to pesticides.

Also read | ‘Economy causes billions in damage to biodiversity’

ABN and the Impact Institute therefore recommend that companies start charging ‘real’ prices and that biodiversity becomes an integral part of decision-making to ensure that we can reduce that damage.

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At the UN summit, the targets for biodiversity for the coming decades must be negotiated. Like, for example, increasing the percentage of land with protected status. But also about how companies can incorporate biodiversity into their business operations. ‘I think there are some nice targets, but it remains to be seen whether they have any chance of success,’ says Mark van Oorschot, a researcher in international biodiversity policy at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

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After the binding targets have been defined, the countries themselves will translate them into their national policies. According to Van Oorschot, there are also great opportunities for companies to contribute to a ‘nature-positive society’, especially by paying attention to biodiversity in the companies’ value chains. ‘First of all, they can visualize their relationship with nature. They can then organize things better on their own site. Then you have to look at your chain: how do your raw material suppliers manage their business park, and do they do something about their emissions and land use?’

‘Chain responsibility’

This means that ‘chain responsibility’ is required, which, according to the report, will also require fundamental changes in revenue models to realize changes. ‘For all kinds of raw materials that we get from the tropics, such as coffee and cocoa, we have to ask ourselves if we shouldn’t use less, instead of just producing it sustainably,’ says Van Oorschot.

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In the run-up to the summit, more than 330 multinationals have called for the ‘Make it Mandatory’ campaign to make transparency on biodiversity impacts mandatory by 2030. Van Oorschot would have liked to see things move faster, but is happy about steps forward. “This is about companies taking responsibility for effects in the chain, measuring it, looking at where the impact is, reporting on it and also showing what they will do about it to avoid the risks. I think that’s a good goal. You’re not there yet, but it’s an important step to start with.’

Research published last week by ABN Amro and the Impact Institute shows that the Dutch economy causes damage to ecosystem services worth around €40 billion a year.
Research published last week by ABN Amro and the Impact Institute shows that the Dutch economy causes damage to ecosystem services worth around €40 billion a year. (ANP / Ruud Morijn)

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