Is protecting biodiversity part of your business’ future planning? If not, it should be. In December, representatives from governments around the world met at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal to discuss global action that was needed to address biodiversity loss. The outcome: a landmark framework, agreed upon by 190 countries, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, including protecting a third of the planet by the same date.
This call to action was echoed by Kevin Hourican, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sysco, in an article on the World Economic Forum highlighting the importance of raising awareness on the impending threat of biodiversity loss and the need for collective action from global leaders. He says: “As a leader who has been critically assessing the supply chain of the world’s largest food distributor, I have witnessed firsthand how strategic investments and process modifications can mitigate nature loss and make supply chains more sustainable and resilient against economic and environmental impacts. As leaders consider potential solutions, investing in future technologies now will be what defines the success and longevity of businesses in the long term.”
For this ambition of a nature-positive agenda to succeed, governments and business must specifically apply resources towards integrated solutions that promote biodiversity preservation.
“Industry has a critical role to play in reversing the biodiversity crisis,” said Caroline Tippett, Vice President of Oceans Markets and Finance, WWF US. Earth’s biodiversity has seen crushing loss in the last 50 years, with WWF reporting a 69% decrease in wildlife populations. “Increasing biodiversity loss, coupled with resource scarcity and conflict, is making it tough for businesses to maintain responsible, sustainable supply chains. Company action is needed not only to mitigate the impacts industry has on nature loss, but also to work towards reaching net-positive transformation in the environments in which they operate”.
The intersection of biodiversity and sustainable seafood
For more than 20 years, WWF has worked with fishing and farming industries, governments, and local communities around the world to safeguard marine wildlife, the natural environment, and the livelihoods of people who depend on the oceans and coastal environments for their wellbeing. Through partnerships with global food companies, WWF has helped businesses transition their seafood supply chains to more sustainable, responsible, and traceable sources. We’ve seen success using certification and improvement models focused on individual fisheries, fleets, and farms, but we need to also address systemic issues across seascapes including biodiversity loss and climate impacts. A more holistic approach can help to scale efforts and generate better, lasting outcomes for people and nature.
Companies must not only work to reduce their environmental and social footprint of wild caught and farmed seafood but also to reverse negative trends in loss of marine life so that ocean ecosystems are regenerative, resilient, and a support system for humanity.
One way to achieve this is by widening your lens to an ecosystem-based or ‘seascape’ management approach. This allows for considering the needs of the entire ecosystem, rather than focusing on individual species. Seafood farming at scale can have serious repercussions for the surrounding environment with lasting and sometimes irreversible damage, especially operations linked to the conversion of mangrove forests into farming areas. In areas where industrial fishing or farming is taking place, an ecosystem-based approach to management can help ensure the overall health of the ecosystem is maintained and biodiversity is protected.
Another path toward nature-positivity includes supporting good management of small-scale, artisanal fisheries that can provide economic and social benefits for coastal communities. Additionally, reducing bycatch – or the incidental uptake of non-target species – can help protect critical ecosystems and preserve biodiversity. As with all seafood solutions, it is critical to maintain transparent and traceable tracking systems that allow you to pinpoint the origin of your seafood products to back up all responsible sourcing claims.
The business case for nature-positive
There is a strong case for investment in nature-positive solutions to both reduce risks (e.g. declines in marine life, food security, and livelihoods) and build resilience in their supply chains to the ever-increasing shocks and stressors from climate change (e.g. changes to the distribution and productivity of fish stocks). Investors and local stakeholders need solutions to address simultaneously worsening climate and biodiversity crises that create real tangible risks to profits, surety of future supply, and social license to operate, particularly with rising pressure on fisheries from increased demand for seafood protein. Consumers, investors, and regulators will need to work together to drive both credible nature-positive action and increased transparency and accountability from companies.
Businesses that benefit from our oceans have a great responsibility to help steward the resources that keep supply chains moving. This responsibly comes with opportunity for businesses to address biodiversity loss and support restoring nature, which provides benefits to companies as well as communities in places where they operate. We want to help. WWF is actively building partnerships and working in coalition with industry leaders across sectors. Forward-thinking corporate leaders who incorporate nature-positive commitments into their business operations are recognizing that this is a critical step for the long-term success of both their business and the planet.
To advance this effort, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) Oceans Hub recently launched its first work stream: Seafood Value Chains. This workstream, led by WWF and Conservation International, recognizes that a science-based approach is needed to inform targets and incentivize action for companies, and it provides companies with a roadmap for integrated action on nature and climate. Through SBTN, companies can contribute, proportionately and holistically, to building resilience in ocean ecosystems and coastal communities, ensuring the ocean’s health is regenerated.
To learn more about the work of the Science Based Targets Network, click here.