nature environment sustainability eco business meeting

The vast majority of businesses have woken up to the urgency of the climate crisis and it is now becoming a key component of their decision-making. There are more stringent measures on reporting, with tangible targets required on elements such as carbon reduction, and many business leaders have accepted this is necessary for the long-term viability of their organisations.

However, the same obligations don’t exist when it comes to the use of natural resources. Our economy is dependent on a thriving natural world. Food and drink suppliers, many of whom rely on natural ingredients, should know this better than anyone. Yet, in the majority of businesses, nature does not have a real role in major boardroom decisions.

There are examples of innovative projects across the industry that are focused on protecting our natural world. But these alone will not deliver the fundamental change we need to see. To make a real difference, business leaders must tie together the health of the natural world with the health of their business as a whole – which, ultimately, cannot be measured only by how much money is being generated. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Certain practices of financial reporting, such as those based on the calculation of value-added, ensure all stakeholders are remunerated and invested in appropriately, from direct shareholders and employees to third parties like suppliers. However, despite it being a vital component of the supply chain, nature is not. Its resources are being used, but it is not being compensated.

This leaves the question: who is going to pay for the natural capital required? At the moment, it’s the natural world itself. This model isn’t sustainable. There is only so much resource nature can give to us without us giving back.

There needs to be a way to make nature a physical stakeholder in the business, alongside investors and shareholders, with an active voice in discussions. Having a representative in board meetings whose sole purpose is to advocate for the interests of the natural world can address this. It doesn’t mean abandoning everything at the expense of the natural world, but will help businesses to make more balanced decisions. The impact on nature also needs to be embedded within financial reports. This can be achieved by making nature a stakeholder also on companies’ accounts.

Ultimately, we need to strive towards cross-industry collaboration and government regulation to ensure we can successfully build a nature-positive economy. Food, drink and retail businesses are uniquely positioned to lead the charge with what is quite a simple step, but one which will make an important change to the way they think about nature.

We don’t have time to drag our heels – biodiversity decline is happening at an alarming rate. It’s in the best interests of the natural world, businesses, and society as a whole to act now.