Published on 22 July 2018


Major French companies commit to biodiversity

On 10 July, 65 companies committed to the Act4Nature initiative. This initiative launched by the French private sector with NGOs is designed to protect, enhance and restore biodiversity. It could also be a first step for an international mobilisation.

65 companies have committed to the Act4Nature initiative to safeguard biodiversity, an initiative that is set to expand internationally.

Biodiversity often takes a backseat to climate within companies, but it should be the environmental subject over the next few years in the private sector. The agenda for this complex subject is to be measured and addressed by companies, or such is the ambition displayed by the Act4Nature initiative launched on 10 July at the Good Planet Foundation in Paris.

65 companies, mainly industry giants such as BNP Paribas, Michelin, Danone, Total and the SNCF have announced with great fanfare, in the presence of about forty major bosses, their mobilisation around the subject, and with a common commitment. The goal is that "every company has a net positive contribution to nature", says Act4Nature.

Biodiversity as capital for companies

For this purpose, they will integrate "the question of biodiversity in all activities, from governance and strategy to the most concrete operations" through 10 commitments and legitimise it "with collaborators and stakeholders to encourage spontaneous action".

This initiative is supported by EpE and its 20 partners (1): business networks, NGOs, scientific institutions and the French Agency for Biodiversity. With a focus on the COP15 for biodiversity in 2020, this could lead to a Beijing Agreement on Biodiversity, and a counterpart to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Safeguarding biodiversity is crucial for businesses. "They have to worry about biodiversity in three ways: competitiveness, because they depend on it for their raw materials, reputation, because consumers will make more decisions based on corporate responsibility, and ethics, as responsible actors and part of the decline in biodiversity", explains Anne Larigauderie, secretary of IPBES, the IPCC equivalent for biodiversity.

France on the frontline

60% of ecosystems are currently degraded. And "economic activity plays a role in the five causes behind the loss of biodiversity (artificialisation, pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, invasive species and climate change)", explain the companies involved in Act4Nature. The challenge is particularly important for France, which comprises five of the 34 global biodiversity “hotspots”.

Each company will decline the joint commitments for individual initiatives. RTE, the body for electricity transmission in France, must attain 1,800 hectares of land developed for biodiversity by 2021. The developer Icade is planning for 25% of its new and existing construction to be in "positive biodiversity" (the positive development of fauna, flora, soil, water and green spaces) by 2020.

The global insurer, Axa, is now refusing to insure boats engaged in unregulated fishing. It has also divested from palm oil producers practicing deforestation and is working on an indicator to calculate the biodiversity footprint of its portfolios.

The measurement challenge

Measurement is one of the greatest areas of complexity for companies in assessing their biodiversity footprint, their exposure to risk and the monitoring of their progress. Work is under way to define standardised indicators. This is exactly what ClubB4B+, led by CDC Biodiversity, is working on through the construction of the Global Biodiversity Score.

During the presentation of the biodiversity plan in early July, Nicolas Hulot, French journalist and environmental activist, said that companies will soon measure their biodiversity footprint through a common indicator that could be made mandatory in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports, very similar to what has been done for climate. This would be a sort of economic analysis tool of one’s biodiversity footprint that Hulot would like to see developed by 2020.

The initiative, currently carried out at the French level, is supposed to have a more international focus.  In any case, this is the wish for EpE. "We are very much watched internationally, and our sphere of influence, even emulation, should be international, thanks in particular to the driving role of the COP sessions", declared EpE president, Jean-Dominique Senard, also president for Michelin.

Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud

(1) The initiative brings together Epe, Afep, Medef, the Alliance for the preservation of forests, the College of Directors of Sustainable Development (C3D), Finance for Tomorrow, Global Compact France, Orée, the ORSE, the Foundation for Biodiversity Research, the Museum of Natural History, Good Planet Foundation, France Nature Environment, Nature and Man Foundation, Humanity and Biodiversity, LPO, Noé, the French IUCN Committee, WWF France, and the French Agency for Biodiversity.

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