Trade for prosperity

Businesses of all sizes can implement solutions to provide benefits for the climate and biodiversity

If businesses are going to make a significant contribution to saving the planet through environmental, social and governance actions, including reversing the loss of biodiversity, then participation of small businesses will be vital. Importantly the strong alignment small businesses have with the personal values, innovation, and ability to respond quickly to market demands means that there is huge potential for small businesses to take action and be nature positive. 

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (2021) there are 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, comprising 99% of the total number of businesses. Small businesses employ 12.9 million people, or 48% of the total workforce, with annual turnover of £1.6 trillion or 36% total UK business turnover. 

“Estimates show that between 1992 and 2014, produced capital per person doubled, and human capital per person increased by about 13% globally; but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40%.”
The Dasgupta Review, Dr.Gasgupta

It can be hard to know what this means in practice, especially for businesses that don’t have an obvious footprint in the natural environment. We need to take steps that reduce the demands of our businesses on the natural world (through reduced physical footprints, manufacturing & materials, supply chains, waste reduction etc) and promote its recovery through sustainable investments, adopting innovative solutions and mobilising the private sector to take actions. Business partnerships with local nature conservation charities including for example the Wildlife Trusts and The Conservation Volunteers also help in raising awareness and understanding on the importance of nature. And over the next few years we’re likely to see increasing number of initiatives for businesses to support and getting credit for managing their land or helping to conserve and restore other areas, such as through the new local Nature Recovery Network set up by Natural England which is prioritising the involvement of local businesses. 

 This is partly why, in partnership with the ICC-UK and IEMA a group of businesses established the UK Business & Biodiversity Forum (UKBBF) to facilitate collaboration in the UK by bringing together large, medium and small businesses across the value chain to share knowledge and best practices and to co-create solutions that lead towards nature positive outcomes. 

UKBBF believes that the key message to small businesses is to take action on sustainability: reduce energy use and carbon emissions; eliminate or reduce single use plastics, paper and card; reduce waste of all types, especially chemical waste and so on. Our message must be that by operating more sustainably, you will take positive action for nature and your bottom line will benefit too. The “3 Rs” of reduce, reuse and recycle, reduce costs and benefit nature.  

So many businesses will of be right in that this is nothing new, but the focus and expectation on businesses to make real change and demonstrate that these actions are reducing a biodiversity impact is growing and growing fast – largely because the practices businesses have been undertaking to date have not worked and biodiversity remains in decline.

Last month saw Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity Diversity (CBD) continue their negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity frameworks –with goals and targets to reverse the loss of biodiversity. This includes a specific target for all businesses (large and small) to assess, monitor, and disclose dependences and impacts on biodiversity. In the same month the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) released its new draft framework, which also asks businesses to assess and disclose dependences and impacts on nature, as well as a company’s nature-related risks and opportunities.

International agreements like COP15 and financial and reporting regulations will have little direct impact on the small business sector. Most business owners are not aware of COP15 and requirements are generally aimed at large corporates. But more importantly businesses have an opportunity to come together and lead. While nature is complex, action for nature is not. The focus needs to be on businesses, large and small, to be making bold commitments and taking action – because it is what customers and clients expect.

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