Companies have more or less of a direct impact on biodiversity depending on their activities (mining, production, transport, distribution, etc.). But how can they incorporate many aspects of Biodiversity into their business strategy ? This is the aim of the NF X32-001 standard, launched in France in January 2021, with the International Organisation for Standardisation currently working on an international version. This ISO standard is expected to be published in June 2024.
What importance do companies place on biodiversity?
According to the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) study published to coincide with COP15 last December*, fewer than 1% of companies assessed know the extent to which their activities depend on nature and ecosystem services. The report also shows that, while 50% of the companies have already taken steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, just 3% are on a path towards a nature-positive future by 2030.
A French standard to help companies with their approach…
For a company, committing to biodiversity does not simply mean assessing its impacts and dependence on ecosystems, as recommended by the new framework adopted at COP15 (see box below). It requires them to develop and implement suitable measures. The NF X32-001 standard “Biodiversity – Strategic and operational approach – Requirements and guidelines” was launched in France to “help organisations build the issues of conservation, restoration and the sustainable use of biodiversity into their strategies.” With this in mind, the standard proposes a methodology for defining challenges, analysing the impacts of a company’s activities and dependence on ecosystem services, and identifying stakeholders. It also provides the company with a framework for structuring its approach by establishing a strategy, creating and implementing an action plan, assessing outcomes and achieving improvement. It also establishes a framework for regional anchoring and internal and external communication of outcomes.
Having launched in France in January 2021, this voluntary standard is available to any kind of organisation, regardless of size or nature. It may apply to any or all of a company’s activities; any or all of its land-holdings; any or all of its site operations, as well as all or part of its value chain and sphere of influence.
…soon to be introduced internationally
An international version of the French standard is being developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation. The upcoming ISO 17298 standard “Biodiversity — Strategic and operational approach for organisations – Requirements and guidelines”, expected to be published in June 2024, will define requirements and guidelines to help organisations understand and mainstream biodiversity protection, conservation, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources, within their activities. This standard will be applicable to all activities of any organisation (including projects and operations), from direct site operations to entire value chains or their sphere of influence.
The upcoming ISO 17298 standard will ensure robustness of organisations’ strategic approaches to biodiversity in terms of the method used to define it, its content, and its implementation. It will provide guidance on identifying organisation-specific dependencies and impacts on biodiversity, prioritising them, setting ambitions and goals, and defining coherent actions to mitigate impacts on biodiversity. It will also set requirements regarding governance of the strategic approach for biodiversity, engagement of stakeholders and communication.
COP15 and companies
Hosted in Montreal last December, COP15 finally resulted in the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework* (GBF), which aims to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2050.
This new framework has four overarching global goals:
- halting human-induced extinction of threatened species and reducing the rate of extinction of all species tenfold by 2050;
- sustainable use and management of biodiversity;
- fair sharing of the benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources;
- ensuring that adequate technical and financial means of implementing the GBF be accessible to all parties, particularly Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
To achieve this, there are 23 targets to achieve by 2030, including: putting at least 30% of the world’s land, coastal areas and oceans under protection; restoring 30% of ecosystems; halving the risks associated with pesticides and phasing out subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least USD500 billion per year by 2030. In view of the role they can play in achieving the overall objective, companies and financial institutions are “required to… assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity.” But they are not subject to any specific obligations.
*“Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework”, with COP15 hosted by Montreal under China’s presidency.
*This first WBA Nature Benchmark assessed the policies and practices of 389 companies in 8 of the sectors having the greatest potential ecological impact: metals and mining, construction and engineering, construction materials and supplies, containers and packaging, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, tyres and rubber, apparel and footwear and chemicals. Another 600 companies are to be assessed in 2023 (worldbenchmarkingalliance.org).