If the rate of global consumption matched the UK’s, the world would be using up 2.75 planets a year, says Mark Driscoll

First you were told to cut carbon. Then asked to be mindful of water. But now you're being asked to do more: to look beyond 'creating a less negative impact' and towards ecosystem protection and governance.

Nowhere is this push more acute than in the agriculture and food industries. But look away now at your peril.

Your businesses, more than any, hinge on biodiversity. Take pollinating insects: their services are worth some £120bn a year to the global economy, with three quarters of the globe's top 100 key food commodities dependent upon them. There are myriad other examples.

All these systems are potentially limitless, able to renew and replenish the resources we remove unless we take more than nature can cope with and, unfortunately, that's exactly what we're doing now.

According to the Living Planet Report we published this week, globally we're using the resources of 1.5 planets a year. That's a bit like spending £15,000 a year when you earn £10,000. In the UK, the figure is closer to £27,500 if everyone consumed at that rate we'd need 2.75 planets. That's a lot of debt and the report paints a pretty bleak picture of the future if this continues: empty seas, acelerating climate change and food security. It doesn't take an environmentalist or an economist to tell you this is not sustainable.

Why does this matter now and to you? Our debt is largely due to carbon emissions. As the global population grows, competition for natural resources and ecosystem services will intensify. And our debt will grow. 'Spending' our way out of economic debt didn't work. To try that with ecological debt won't, either.

But there are ways to mitigate the impact businesses have. What's more, the UK, with its advanced food system, could lead the way, creating a vision for food and land use, showing how much energy, food and fibre the world will need by 2050 while staying within resource and environmental limits.

So far we've created and tested food policies on financial models that don't factor in ecological realities. In years to come, we want to be looking back on that and thinking 'why did we ever do it that way?'.

Mark Driscoll is head of WWF-UK's One Planet Food programme.