Emerging Trends on Nature: Expectations for Corporate Action

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This blog was first published in 2022, and was updated in 2024 for accuracy and relevance.

Are your company’s nature-related goals and actions keeping pace with rising expectations, new standards, and the latest science?

In this blog, we explain nature loss, including key trends and drivers; why it matters to business; what you need to know about new and forthcoming guidance, standards, and regulations; and how companies are responding.

Why does nature loss matter to business?

Nature provides innumerable benefits and services to humanity, including food, fresh water, renewable resources, nutrient cycling, pollination, air purification, and protection against soil erosion, as well as physical, mental, and cultural-spiritual human wellness. Without healthy ecosystems, we lose the natural regulators for carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, necessary to support human life and sustain biodiversity.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services. Image by Embedding Project.

Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems. It underpins the healthy functioning of natural systems, as well as the provision of ecosystem services essential for human health, livelihoods and economies, food security, and quality of life worldwide.

Healthy and varied ecosystems and biological diversity are crucial to the resilience and sustainability of our planet, and yet they are severely – and increasingly – threatened.

Global wildlife populations – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish – have declined by 69% since 1970, and two million species are currently at risk of extinction from human activities – double the previous estimate. Over 75% of the Earth’s total land surface has been significantly altered and impacted by human actions, and that figure is expected to reach 90% by 2050. Global deforestation rose by 3.2% in 2023, and 28.3 million hectares of tree cover was lost – primarily from deforestation and fires. That’s the equivalent of one hundred football fields per minute.

Planetary health is not separate to human wellbeing. The two are intricately intertwined, and immediate – and intensive – action is necessary and overdue.

What’s driving nature loss?

To limit nature loss, we need to understand its drivers. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has identified five key drivers behind the crisis:

  1. Changes in the use of land and sea, including how we grow food, harvest materials such as wood and minerals, and create urban spaces.

  2. Exploitation of natural resources, such as through hunting, poaching, and overfishing.

  3. Climate change, through the increasing intensity and severity of elevated temperatures, extreme weather events, fires, droughts, ocean acidification, and other effects that are outpacing the ability of organisms to adapt.

  4. Pollution in the air, soil, and water, from nitrogen and ammonia to plastics and heavy metals.

  5. Invasive non-native species, which are out-competing local biodiversity for key – and often dwindling – resources such as food, shelter, sunlight, and water. Invasive alien species play a key role in 60% of global plant and animal extinctions, and cost humanity more than $400 billion a year.

Collectively, these drivers threaten to compromise the resilience of the natural and social systems in which human life is embedded, and upon which business depends.

Why does biodiversity loss matter to companies?

All of business is inextricably linked with nature, either directly or indirectly. Nature loss therefore carries the risk of significant adverse economic impacts.

The impacts of nature loss can be chronic, acute, and sudden, and can result in disruption to supply chains, increasing regulatory compliance costs, and erosion of societal acceptance of companies or industries. Central banks, lenders, investors, and regulatory and supervisory agencies are beginning to recognise the potential of nature loss as a threat to economic and financial stability and therefore, part of their fiduciary duty.

More than half of the world’s economic output – USD $58tn – is moderately or highly dependent on nature, and our present pace of nature loss could cost the global economy upwards of US$2.7 trillion annually by 2030.

Fortunately, conserving natural capital and transitioning to using its components in a sustainable manner has the potential to generate US$10 trillion in business opportunities and create nearly 400 million jobs by 2030.

New guidance has arrived

The past two years have seen a flurry of new nature-related guidance, including frameworks, standards, disclosure recommendations, and forthcoming regulation.

Most significant is the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This “Paris Agreement for Nature” replaces the Convention for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets. The Framework aims to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 and sets out an ambitious pathway to reach the global vision of a world living in harmony with nature by 2050. It contains ambitious goals and interim targets to protect and restore nature, protect biodiversity, prevent extinction of species, ensure sustainable use, and promote fair and equitable benefit sharing – all of which depend on collaboration between industries and governments.

Reversing Ecosystems Decline

Reversing Ecosystems Decline. Image by Embedding Project.

The United Nations General Assembly has also declared that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment, and has acknowledged that states have a responsibility to ensure their peoples have access to – and benefit from – resilient natural systems.

Nature is also at the heart of the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), now coming into force. Requirements phase in over time, with large EU companies required to begin reporting on their nature-related impacts in 2025, based on their 2024 data. The latest Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Biodiversity Standard will come into effect in January 2026, and will require companies to report on the impact their operations and value chains are having on biodiversity loss. Further, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), which created the IFRS 1 and IFRS 2 general reporting requirements for disclosing sustainability-related risks, recently announced that it will commence research projects about risks and opportunities related to nature and human capital.

The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) has also developed a market-led, science-based risk management and disclosure framework for organisations to voluntarily report and act on evolving nature-related risks and opportunities.

To help companies meet these requirements, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) has released the first science-based targets for nature, with target-setting guidance for land, biodiversity, and freshwater. SBTN is in the final stages of its pilot programme, and early adopters have already begun sharing preliminary insights.

How companies are responding

Halting and reversing nature loss depends on businesses of all sizes and from across the industrial spectrum understanding, identifying, assessing, managing, and disclosing nature-related dependencies, impacts, risks, and opportunities.

In our discussions with senior leaders and sustainability professionals, we have heard that it can be difficult to choose between different frameworks and guidance. Many have remarked that it can be challenging to pursue a nature-positive business strategy, and that the broad and growing range of regulations and recommendations have compounded their confusion and caution. We also heard that the key is to just get started.

Regardless of whether your business is just beginning to explore ecosystem resilience and nature loss as an issue, or is preparing to develop and implement a strategy that advances nature positivity, a key step in the process is to simply choose to a framework and start working with it. You can make adjustments later, as you work your way towards creating a positive impact.

In other words, do not to allow the pursuit of “perfection” to get in the way of doing “good.”

Some of the early goals that we see in our research and assessment are centred around learning about biodiversity and ecosystems and the drivers of their decline. These goals are focused on companies understanding the issue of nature loss; the impact of their operations and value chain on ecosystems and the interdependencies between their business and nature; and relevant limits that they must operate within to safeguard the resilience of ecosystems.

The majority of credible goals align with a threshold or limit, and adhere to the mitigation hierarchy – a framework that supports “no net loss in nature” by avoiding and minimising impacts, restoring areas that have been developed and populations that have been reduced, and offsetting or compensating for residual impacts. Some of these goals include eliminating deforestation; holding flat the total land use associated with operations and value chains; and supporting regenerative agriculture.

There is also a growing number of companies that are moving beyond the traditional mitigation hierarchy and are setting nature-positive biodiversity and land-use goals. These companies seek to protect and restore more nature than they disturb.

Nature Impact

Nature Impact. Image by Embedding Project.

Further Resources

To learn more about the causes and impacts of nature loss, why it matters to business, and the actions required to halt and reverse ecosystem and biodiversity decline, check out our Issue Snapshots.

We have also written a guide on developing credible nature-related position statements.