Companies largely clueless about their impact on nature

Published 08:36 on December 6, 2022  /  Last updated at 08:36 on December 6, 2022  / Stian Reklev /  Biodiversity

Fewer than 5% of global companies have assessed the impact they have on nature and fewer than 1% understand how their businesses depend on natural ecosystem services, according to a survey published this week.

Fewer than 5% of global companies have assessed the impact they have on nature and fewer than 1% understand how their businesses depend on natural ecosystem services, according to a survey published this week.

Netherlands-based World Benchmarking Alliance has published Nature Benchmark, a first global assessment of how major companies worldwide take action to protect and prioritise nature.

While there is real momentum ahead of the UN’s biodiversity COP15 to make it mandatory for large companies and financials to disclose their impact and dependencies on nature by 2030, Nature Benchmark presents a bleak picture of the current situation on the ground.

“Without understanding their relationship to nature and how operations are either harming or helping biodiversity, how can businesses grasp what action to take?” said Vicky Sins, World Benchmarking Alliance’s nature transformation lead.

“Companies must measure and report how they interact with nature – including how their activities affect deforestation, pollution, and nature loss,” she added.

Nature Benchmark covers 389 companies globally across eight sectors that have a particularly high impact on nature: metals and mining, construction and engineering, construction materials and supplies, containers and packaging, pharma and biotech, tyres and rubber, apparel and footwear, and chemicals.

The overall findings illustrate the vast amount of work that needs to be done before business will start playing a meaningful role in halting and reversing biodiversity loss:

• While 50% of the companies have net zero greenhouse gas emissions targets, only around 5% had even taken steps to understand how their operations impact nature and biodiversity
• Only around 5% had made nature-related commitments, such as avoiding ecosystem conversion or reducing deforestation
• Transparency is low, and while about half the companies disclose the location of their operational sites, only 14% give clear indications as to whether they are located near biodiversity hotspots
• While Indigenous peoples and local communities are crucial for biodiversity stewardship globally, only 13% of the companies had expressed clear commitments to Indigenous peoples’ rights
• The level of responsible lobbying is low, with only 8% of the firms incorporating stakeholder feedback in lobbying strategies

“A crucial aim of COP15 is to achieve a ‘Paris Agreement for nature’, but protecting nature isn’t feasible without the vital role of the private sector,” said Sins.

“We all need businesses to be clear that their success is closely linked to their relationship with the natural world around them – on which so many of them rely.”

Nature Benchmark ranked the 389 companies based on governance and strategy, ecosystems and biodiversity criteria, and social inclusion and community impact.

French luxury apparel brand Kering came out on top, with a total score of 55.2 out of 100 – the only company to score higher than 50.

They were followed by four metals and mining firms – Norsk Hydro (46.8), Newmont (46.3), Rio Tinto (45.1), and Vale (43.6), with packaging firm Mondi (42.6) and infrastructure firm Acciona (42) the last two of only seven firms globally scoring above 40.

As many as 125 of the assessed corporations ended up with a score below 10, with 38 of them failing to pick up a single point and ended up being rated at 0.0.

The majority of companies scoring 0 are based in Asia, predominantly China, and includes industrial juggernauts such as Amer International Group, Baotou Iron and Steel Group, Beijing Construction Engineering Group, ChemChina, and Shandong Iron & Steel Group.

However, German pharmaceutical C. H. Beuhringer Sohn, Russia’s Eurocement, Egyptian Ezz Steel, US clothing company Forever 21, Japanese chemical firm Tosoh, and US-based construction and engineering giant Whiting-Turner Contracting found themselves at the foot of the ranking.

Hopes that large companies will begin to map their impact on nature – voluntarily or through regulations – is expected to over time drive larger private-sector involvement to halt ecosystem loss and also underpin the emergence of a voluntary market for biodiversity credits.

The Nature Benchmark findings suggest regulators should step in to speed up that process, according to World Benchmarking Alliance.

“WBA is calling on policymakers around the world to mandate the assessment and disclosure of business’ impacts and dependencies on nature at COP15, as part of Business for Nature’s Make it Mandatory campaign,” it said.

By Stian Reklev –

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