Corporate action is essential to deliver a new deal for nature and people

“We believe business will be stronger if the ecosystems they depend on are healthy and strong.”

This quote best summarises the essence of the discussion at our breakfast meeting at the WEF Annual Meeting at Davos today. We came together with companies, business associations and NGOs to discuss the role of business in supporting and delivering a New Deal for Nature and People. In the context of increasing loss of nature — with a 60% species decline in 40 years, 15.8 million hectares of forest lost last year, and severe bleaching of coral reefs — the New Deal calls for stronger commitment and action to protect nature and fight climate change. And it is encouraging to note that leaders from government, business, NGOs, and more are supporting the concept and speaking up for nature with the appropriate sense of urgency that this crisis demands.

Carter Roberts, the CEO of WWF US, set the context by reminding us of the findings of the IPCC and Living Planet Report in 2018 which urge swift action to curb temperature rise to 1.5C and protect nature to ensure life on earth thrives. Virginie Helias, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Procter & Gamble and Jeff Seabright, Chief Sustainability Officer of Unilever both shared their experiences — in setting targets for issues that are material for their companies including plastics and palm oil, examples of innovation e.g. the Loop initiative for refillable home products, and investing at landscape level e.g. in Sabah to restore forests. It was good to see market rivals agree that pre-competitive collaboration is required to achieve conservation goals!

The companies in the room saw the urgency and opportunity in addressing the drivers of nature loss; particularly deforestation, land conversion for agriculture, over-exploitation of fisheries, and infrastructure development. Emerging issues like plastic pollution are also high on the agenda. However, it is clear that while understanding and committing are important first steps, implementation on the ground is not easy. Participants all agreed we need transparent, open dialogue so that we can jointly design solutions and show business leadership towards the New Deal.

Three potential activities were highlighted for business engagement:

  • Advocating that governments adopt the New Deal by building a collective business voice
  • Setting ambitious corporate commitments to halt nature loss
  • Acting and demonstrating real impact on the ground

We discussed the opportunity to develop a platform that helps companies move from commitments to identifying specific initiatives that they are collaborate with, to implementation and impact on the ground. We need bottom up solutions, starting with landscapes, seascapes and river basins and linking them to relevant corporate players; as well as top down solutions where companies define their specific material issues and act them on — linking them to land and seascapes.

Of course, we need to make the business case for action — for companies as well as for communities and even governments. Companies need to generate profit; individuals achieve better livelihoods and greater well-being; and countries prosper. Identifying the co-benefits and developing a clear and compelling narrative are essential for engaging and motivating action from all players.

Companies are critical to achieve all these objectives. Through ambition, action, and advocacy companies can protect and conserve nature and secure the foundation for healthy and thriving communities. And it was positively reinforcing that companies stand ready to commit and act.

Working closely with partners, WWF will take these ideas forward and in the coming months form a collaboration to help companies set commitments, implement actions that have a demonstrable positive impact for nature, and advocate for a New Deal for Nature and People.

I hope you will join us in this movement to call for a New Deal by signing up at www.voicefortheplanet.org

By Kavita Prakash-Mani, Global Conservation Director, WWF