Nature positive — How do we work without a consistent definition?

2023 / 3 / 4 | Author: enw_editor

With the development of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework and other initiatives related to biodiversity and natural capital gaining traction, the concept of nature positive is getting attention. However, there is some variability in the way this term is defined.

What is “nature positive”?

In a paper by Biodiversity Consultancy (see page 4), definitions of this concept are classified into three main categories.

(1) Conceptual
The definitions used by the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) fall into the conceptual category. UNEP’s definition is as follows.

“A Nature-positive Economy [is] an economy that is regenerative, collaborative and where growth is only valued where it contributes to social progress and environmental protection”

(2) Target-based
Meanwhile, the target-based model applies to the TNFD’s outcome-oriented definition.

“…a high-level goal and concept describing a future state of nature (including biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural capital) which is greater than the current state.”

 (3) Process-based
While the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) does not exactly define the term nature positive, it describes the process to attain it in six actions.

How can we make meaningful progress forward?

According to the paper above, the lack of an established definition can cause confusion and misunderstanding, potentially impeding any substantial strides towards biodiversity goals. The paper offers four key elements essential for nature-positive corporate strategies.

(1) Scope
Going beyond an organization’s direct impacts to deliver positive results across the value chain and sector

(2) Mainstreaming
Putting biodiversity considerations at the heart of business operations

(3) Integration
Considering climate, water, soil, local communities and other factors holistically to create synergies while minimizing trade-offs

(4) Ambition
Proactively forging positive results aligned with global biodiversity goals instead of merely offsetting negative impacts

Corporate initiatives, present and future

From the perspective of the above four points, how well are corporate nature-positive initiatives presently doing? After analyzing 167 firms, Biodiversity Consultancy found that, while biodiversity efforts are moving forward as a whole, there are issues with defining clear goals. In particular, the majority of firms did not specify the scope of their efforts — of those that did, most just addressed the direct impacts of their operations. Only a few firms account for the entire supply chain and value chain in their targets. In terms of ambition, none of the 167 firms appear to have outcome-oriented goals that are aligned with global or national policy targets.

As with any business target, it is important that nature-positive approaches have  SMART* goals. With the environment in rapid decline, we cannot afford to leisurely stand by. As we keep an eye on the debate surrounding this definition that is likely to ensue, we must set ambitious, SMART goals and take action on them ourselves with the intent of leading those around us.

*A goal-setting framework. The components of the acronym may vary based on the organization and text it is used in. In this paper, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Accepted, Realistic and Time-bound.

Minami Tateyama (author), translation by Melody Poland

Photo by Jessica Weiller via Unsplash