Every day, the world is bombarded with news of drought, heatwaves, and climate-induced natural hazards. The global community has never been this concerned about biodiversity, climate change, the well-being of the people, and the health of the planet.
Now that we are talking about SDG-15: Life on Land, cities are of particular concern. Nearly 78% of the energy consumed is producing 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Urban areas are not just a contributor to climate change but also challenging biodiversity.
While urban cities provide a lot of vital benefits, the richness of plant and animal life is diminishing at an alarming rate. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, nearly one million species are on the verge of extinction. These losses along with the loss of forests and changes in ecosystems have accelerated climate change.
Impact of biodiversity on businesses
Biodiversity is essential for all living organisms, including humans. The ecosystems provide natural services like food, water, and shelter. The strength of ecosystems is directly related to the prosperity of biodiversity. When there is thriving biodiversity, a healthy ecosystem will be able to protect us by resisting natural disasters.
Businesses rely on and are also affected by these ecosystem services and the foundational biodiversity – regardless of the location, size, and sector. By acknowledging the impacts and their obligations, businesses will be in a better position to maintain a good track record on biodiversity and sustainability management.
Many businesses directly depend on the health of ecosystems. For instance –
- The operating license for construction mining and energy, maintaining good relationships with local communities and stakeholders.
- Biological material and genetic resources for industries like cosmetics.
- For every sector, to avoid exposure to financial and property loss from the decline in biodiversity.
The consequences of inclined biodiversity loss and ecosystem can lead to higher costs for businesses. It is also a growing concern for the government, which can mean stringent regulations in the future.
Progress towards SDG-15 so far…
SDG 15 is one of the most crucial goals as it encompasses all life on land and is closely tied to other SDGs. To say in one word, the progress is quite “uneven”. The situation with deforestation has not improved but the funding for land-based ecosystem protection is increasing alarmingly. Despite the legislative protections, the rate of biodiversity loss has prompted desertification – threatening the lives of millions of species including humans.
Even though there is a slow rate of decline in deforestation, it is continuing, especially in the parts of South America, South Africa, and SouthEast Asia, which are struggling to enact the forest management policies while also pressured by growing agricultural industries.
The UN progress report states that from 1998 to 2013, over a fifth of the Earth’s land surface covered by plants exhibited persistent and decreasing production trends,” UN progress report. A total of 24 million square kilometers of land were impacted, including 19% of crops, 16% of forest area, 19% of grassland, and 28% of rangeland. Desertification is occurring in certain dryland regions, notably in grasslands and rangelands, as a result of advanced stages of land degradation.
‘Rewilding’ the world with the help of SDG 15 goals
The aim of SDG 15 is to outgrow biodiversity loss and establish sustainable development to allow progressive growth where urban development can coexist with other life on land.
Businesses can be overwhelmed, considering the complexity of the matrix of impacts and dependency of their action. Some businesses want to support the goal, but they will be bemused on what action to take first.
Businesses to restore biodiversity and ecosystems
Because of the interconnected nature of life on land, SDG15 comes with a wide range of economic risks. Deforestation, for example, can lead to desertification and water cycle disturbance, which will be worsened by climate change.
As a result, agricultural production drops and water scarcity increases, exposing businesses throughout the world to a complex web of cost risks, operational risks, stranded asset risks, and reputational threats. Food security, water security, climate change, ecosystem services, and economic growth would all suffer if SDG15 was not met, especially in poorer countries.
What can businesses do to support life on land??
Many frameworks offer companies actionable plans to understand and address the issue – just like the Natural Capital Protocol, which shares a four-point approach for companies to implement.
- The first step is to identify and frame the problem. It is advised to measure the factors and establish the baseline to understand the current state of the problem.
- The next step is to create a list of impacts and dependencies that the current business model has on biodiversity. By understanding these factors, the businesses will be able to chalk out their plan of action.
- Finally, organizations need to figure out how to neutralize these impacts. It is essential to identify the business risks and opportunities which helps to map the action. It can be done by managing your resources like water use, funding for restoration, or creating products to address the issue.
- Further down the line, industries need to realize the significance of investing in forest protection and improving land management for risk and reputational benefits.
- More sustainable agricultural practices result in long-term benefits apart from biodiversity restoration – better employee productivity.
- Pledge to interrogate the biodiversity values in national policies.
To achieve the SDG 15 goal, the collaboration also plays a very crucial role. Businesses in a specific location can co-operate and address many problems that are place-based and achieve the goal directly.
This goal is also closely related to realizing net zero economies. As such, there are an immense opportunity for businesses to realize net-zero and habitat protection strategies. When net-zero is realized, it will be a lot easier for businesses to collaborate and restore nature.