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Jędrzej NadolnyAbout the author:

Jędrzej Nadolny is a public affairs consultant who specialises in EU chemical regulations and is currently working alongside Europe’s most forward-thinking companies to guide and consolidate their green transitions.

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EU Biodiversity Strategy: Why It Should Be a Priority For Your Business

Most company leaders are quite clear about the need for their organisations to elaborate and implement strong sustainability strategies if they wish to continue doing business within the EU in the coming years. However, what many haven’t realised yet is that monitoring carbon footprints is not enough. Meeting the EU’s green goals demands a much more holistic approach to sustainability, and biodiversity is shaping up to be the biggest matter to be addressed by companies worldwide.

If you are a regular reader of Ohana’s blogs, you already know about the ambitious set of biodiversity goals that make up the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030. In this article, I will offer an update on the current state of legislation when it comes to biodiversity and explain why, as a subject matter expert, I advise companies not to wait any longer to act on the subject.

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Biodiversity Policy: the Current Scenario

The European Union is proudly at the forefront of biodiversity protection and has recently published a ground-breaking piece of legislation called Nature Restoration Regulation or NRR. The Nature Restoration Regulation, as stated in the name, is a set of rules which make it mandatory for state members to protect and restore their natural habitats. The first of its kind, the document offers a framework of measures which, together, should restore and protect at least 20% of the EU’s territory (land and sea) by 2030, expanding the challenge to cover all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. To realise this vision, the NRR outlines a variety of initiatives that can be required by state members, such as:

  • Restoring specific parts of biologically-valuable land and marine areas;
  • Cutting down on the use of pesticides close to ecologically sensitive areas;
  • Demolishing artificial water dams and barriers to restore free-flowing rivers.

One important note is that, despite being a legally-binding piece with impacts for all state members, the Nature Restoration Regulation does not include any requirements for companies.

At present, the only biodiversity-related EU policy that is anticipated to put obligations on businesses is the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This piece of legislation will start applying between 2024 and 2026, depending on the size of the company. CSRD will oblige companies to annually disclose their impact, targets and progress on biodiversity and nature using the upcoming sustainability reporting standards. In contrast to the NRR, CSRD will limit its scope to reporting requirements.

Why Should Businesses Address the Subject of Biodiversity Now?

If it is true that the EU does not currently have a comprehensive biodiversity legislation aimed at businesses and private organisations, I can safely say that this won’t be the case for very long.

While we can all understand how climate change leads to a reduction in biodiversity, what many fail to realise is that this is a two-way process. It has been proven that biodiversity loss accelerates climate change, which makes it a priority if we are to achieve the goals set in the European Green Deal. This fact alone would be reason enough for me to affirm that all business sectors will soon have to deal with demands related to biodiversity conservation coming from Brussels but, on top of that, there are other even bolder signs.

The need to better account for biodiversity in future chemical regulations, for example, was stated by EU policymakers during the Ministerial Conference on Chemical Products organised by the French Presidency of the EU Council in May 2022, and COP15 is also just around the corner.

COP15: Taking Biodiversity Protection to the Next Level

Scheduled for December 2022, in Montreal, Canada, the UN’s 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) will see governments from around the world gathered to discuss and establish new goals for protecting nature and halting biodiversity loss in all regions of the planet.

It has been said that the organisers envision COP15 to be the “Paris Agreement for biodiversity” – referring to the 2015 COP climate conference in Paris, which resulted in an international treaty that laid the grounds for concrete global action against global warming. While such an outcome is not guaranteed, I believe that the 11-day conference will generate an increased sense of urgency regarding the subject and that it should then accelerate the publishing of biodiversity-focused legislation in the EU.

A Special Alert for the Textile Sector

Although any biodiversity legislation will no doubt affect businesses across the board, I’d say that the textile industry is one sector that should be put on high alert for upcoming regulations.

It’s no secret that the environmental impact of textiles has been a concern for the EU, a point made even clearer by the publishing of a dedicated EU Sustainable Textiles Strategy last March. And, while the textile industry’s operations have the potential to impact biodiversity in more ways than one, simply looking at how the use of natural fibres inevitably affects ecosystems, leads me to believe that the sector will once again rank high on the European Commission’s list of targets for new legislation.

How Can Businesses Get Involved?

The first step for any organisation interested in staying ahead of the game and joining the movement towards biodiversity conservation should be assessing the impact of their business activities on the ecosystems. In fact, support for companies taking on that journey is readily available through a platform called Business@Biodiversity, developed by the European Commission to help businesses integrate natural capital and biodiversity considerations into their practices.

I also strongly recommend that companies connect with like-minded businesses and civil organisations to reflect together on their position on biodiversity requirements for business. To do so, front-runners could consider joining the Business for Nature platform – a global coalition that unites business and conservation organisations in calling for governmental policies to reverse biodiversity loss in this decade. Business for Nature and its member brands are expected to be active participants in the upcoming COP15, in Montreal.

 

 

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