Businesses must be forced to reveal their impact on nature, more than 300 firms said in an open letter to world leaders published on Wednesday ahead of tough UN talks to halt catastrophic biodiversity loss.
Consumer goods group Unilever, furniture maker IKEA and India’s Tata Steel were among a host of high-profile corporations calling for tougher measures to compel firms to act, amid growing concern over the devastation being wrought on the natural world.
“We need governments worldwide to transform the rules of the economic game and demand that businesses act now,” said the Business for Nature coalition.
It said the open letter was signed by about 330 companies with combined revenues of more than $1.5 trillion.
International efforts to protect the world’s natural life-sustaining systems — including air, food and water — are set to end in Canada in December. Negotiators are developing a global framework for “living in harmony with nature” by 2050, with key indicators in 2030.
While companies are beginning to report their carbon emissions and climate impact – albeit with accusations of “greenwashing” – few companies are detailing biodiversity.
The business, which signed the statement, said it wanted clarity from politicians.
“This statement shows the broad support of big business for an ambitious global deal on nature, with clear objectives to drive collective business and financial action,” said Andre Hoffmann, Vice Chairman of Roche Holdings.
“Political security will accelerate the necessary changes in our business models. We are ready to do everything in our power to move to a society where nature, people and business thrive.”
In March, a report by central banks found that financial institutions and businesses are underestimating the risks of biodiversity loss and destruction of the natural assets they depend on.
The new statement calls on heads of state to sign up to a target of mandatory requirements for big companies to assess and disclose their biodiversity impacts and dependencies by the end of this decade.
The task “will not be easy, but it must happen”, the firms said, calling for measures to ensure that the UN’s goals are aimed at both reducing negative impacts and promoting positive ones.
“The current pace of global economic activity is more than the planet can handle,” said Steve Waygood, chief investment officer at Aviva Investors, who also signed the Business for Nature statement.
“If nature was a running account, then we would be greatly outnumbered. It’s bad for the environment and bad for long-term growth.”
Many hope the U.N. agreement, when finalized, will be as ambitious in its goals to protect life on Earth as was the Paris Agreement on climate change — even if the United States is not a party to U.N. efforts to protect nature.
One notable proposal on the table is protecting 30 percent of wild land and oceans by 2030.
Another key focus of the talks is harmful subsidies for things like fossil fuels, agriculture and fishing, which can lead to environmental destruction and encourage unsustainable levels of production and consumption.
They amount to about $1.8 trillion each year, or two percent of global gross domestic product, Business for Nature estimates.
The world has failed to meet almost all previous nature targets in the decade to 2020.