Global Trend

Protecting Biodiversity

Defining the role of business

Mass extinctions have historically been caused by catastrophic events, but recently human activities are to blame.

Animal species are disappearing at record rates and invasive aliens are driving out native species, replacing complex ecosystems with a small number of colonizing species. A report from the United Nations found that up to a million species are currently threatened with extinction. Climate change impacts are converging with the exploitation of natural resources, resulting in ecosystem collapse. From ongoing deforestation in agricultural supply chains to the effects on coral reefs from rising ocean temperatures, to fires destroying environments in Australia and the Amazon, global biodiversity, and the myriad ecosystem services that it provides, are under threat. The private sector is only just beginning to pay attention to the very real impacts this will have on the global economy.

2020 Forecast

Over the next 12 months, and  the ensuing years through to 2030, the business community will need to come together to drive greater and more holistic action to protect the world’s remaining biological diversity, and the trillions of dollars in ecosystem services that it provides. While awareness of biodiversity loss is growing, private sector solutions to address the issue remain insufficient. In 2020, China will be hosting the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) for the Convention on Biological Diversity. Many are calling it the “Paris of Biodiversity,” hoping it will be a tipping point in global efforts to halt ecosystem degradation, expand conservation and plan for the impacts of rising global temperature. The private sector is expected to have a much stronger voice this year than at previous summits. Unless public and private sector leaders elevate this issue and implement a comprehensive global action plan, mass species extinction and ecosystem collapse will continue, with untold social and economic consequences.

Signals to Watch


  • Global ecosystems are under threat, in part because governments have failed to deliver on the biodiversity targets they agreed to 10 years ago in Japan, including designating 17% of land as protected areas by 2020.

  • A recent United Nations report stated that approximately one-sixth of all known species on Earth are on the verge of extinction.

  • Experts estimate that more than one billion animals have been killed so far in the fires impacting Australia. These numbers include rare and endangered species found only on the Australian continent.

  • Despite years of working to curb deforestation, most food companies will not be able to meet their target to halt deforestation by 2020.

  • Approximately 70% of deforestation is connected to agricultural commodity production, and deforestation alone accounts for approximately 20% of global GHG emissions.

  • In the run-up to Climate Week New York in 2019, 230 institutional investors representing $16.2 trillion in assets under management issued an urgent call to companies to take action on deforestation.

  • Large asset managers such as BNP Paribas are engaging with companies about deforestation through both dialogue and proxy voting. Notable investors that have incorporated detailed, time-bound policies to curb deforestation risks include HSBC, Rabobank and Credit Suisse.

“Species diversity underpins the ecosystem services that we all rely on in order to source materials for the products, food and fuel we use every day. Disrupting these services and ecosystems is putting our future livelihoods at risk. The private sector has a big role to play in responsibly sourcing materials, setting targets for zero deforestation and protecting habitats. These actions will ultimately protect their businesses and supply chains in the long term, and help ensure we all have access to the resources we need to thrive.”
Margo Mosher, Director, SustainAbility

Source: Healthy & Sustainable Living: A Global Consumer Insights Project, GlobeScan

Advice for Business

  • Business was central to securing the Paris Agreement at COP15 and now needs to step up through business coalitions and networks to provide a strong and ambitious corporate voice on biodiversity in China.

  • Companies in at risk sectors need to set clear 2030 targets for biodiversity and be explicit about how they are going to deliver on them. Year-by-year targets and detailed reporting on progress will be essential to accelerating action.

  • Conservation efforts need to align with climate resilience. Identify where ecosystem restoration and improvement align with strengthening the climate resilience of ecosystems in both urban and rural areas.

  • Quantify the financial value of natural resources and the company’s impact upon them.

Case Studies


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