Biodiversity is on the corporate risk agenda along with the latter research indicates that the rate at which animal species are becoming extinct worldwide is worse than previously thought.
Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast concluded in the most recent study that 48 percent of the more than 71,000 species were in decline, and that 33 percent of those considered “non-threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature were also deteriorated. Less than 3 percent rose.
The researchers combined the conventional red list categories with data on population trends. To benchmark extinction levels, studies typically use the IUCN Red List protection categories, which show that 1 percent of animal species are extinct and 25 percent are endangered.
However, since extinctions begin with mass population declines, using the IUCN categories does not reveal the continued progression of population declines in nature, the researchers argued.
Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, who co-authored the study, said the IUCN categories provide a snapshot of a specific point in time. “But it says nothing about the past or the future. The alternative measure we use gives you a perspective through time,” he said.
The authoritative WWF 2022 Living Planet Report has also reported that global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69 percent since 1970. Latin America and Africa have seen the most notable drop, with drops of 94 percent and 66 percent, respectively.
The evidence adds to growing concerns about the magnitude of biodiversity loss, making it a hot topic in corporate-level sustainability discussions.
Businesses and investors are increasingly trying to understand and mitigate their contribution to species loss, driven in part by pressure to disclose their risks of climate and environmental damage.
While there is currently no standard way for companies to measure their biodiversity targets, the Nature-Related Financial Disclosure Task Force is establishing guidelines for companies to report on biodiversity.
The task force is expected to publish a market adoption framework in September requiring companies to report on the environmental risks that could affect their business.
More than 200 companies around the world have tested the task force initiative launched in July 2020.
Separately, the Science Based Targets Network, backed by an independent coalition that includes the WWF and the UN, also recently published tools and guidelines for companies to set targets related to nature.
The pilot project of Science-based goals for nature includes 17 companies that follow a process for establishing, implementing and tracking the progress of targets for freshwater, land, biodiversity and ocean, as well as climate.
Some of the companies involved have come under scrutiny for the impact of their activities on water resources and ecology, such as Danone, Nestlé and the cement group Holcim.
“The scientific community has been sending out warnings for some time now, and I feel like everyone is listening a little more,” says Pincheira-Donoso of Queens University. “But we need commitments from politicians and companies.”
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