Over the past few years, businesses have increasingly talked about the need to assign monetary value to forests, wetlands and other ecosystems. The concept has been gaining momentum, and leading companies are already factoring it into their sustainability planning.
Walmart, for example, has worked to examine how threats to the natural world pose risks up and down its supply chain. It has begun advising its suppliers on how to make their products more climate resilient by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water conservation, and preserving biodiversity and ecosystems services to help improve crop yields.
But for all this effort, programs to cut water use, waste and carbon footprints have not prevented the continued loss of species. Animal populations have dropped by half since 1970, and between 500 and 36,000 species are lost each year.
Steve Elliot, a professor at the University of Sydney Business School, says that there’s “a lot of talk and hand waving and international protocols around reducing biodiversity loss”, but the biggest challenge to the problem is that it competes with attention on environmental sustainability and climate change. “Companies get fatigued,” he says.
In a recent report, published in the New Nature of Business, Elliot and his team studied 10 pioneering companies – including Syngenta, Dow and Wipro – that are taking action on biodiversity. The report doesn’t address big companies like Unilever, but Elliot says they hold potential for showing leadership in how leading businesses support biodiversity and ecosystem services.