If companies truly want to reduce their impact on the environment, planetary boundaries must be put at the core of their business models. Nine boundaries have been defined, including two limits on climate change and the erosion of biodiversity, the thresholds of which have both already been exceeded.
However, the consideration of planetary boundaries and biodiversity is new to most companies. Public awareness of biodiversity and its importance has only recently become mainstream following COP15 in 2022, and is only just starting to be incorporated into non-financial reporting frameworks. With so much uncertainty around the topic, EcoAct expert Zander Dale, looks at how to quantify a company biodiversity footprint and its impact on ecosystems. He also explains to what extent can you measure and act on your dependence on nature.
Biodiversity footprint: The definition according to the most recent scientific models
There is still no consensus on biodiversity-related terminology, with methodologies and regulations rapidly evolving to standardise these concepts. As with all scientific advances though, and like the methodologies used for carbon footprints, best practice is to follow the most ambitious and recognised initiatives to date.
At EcoAct, we base our approach on the recommendations of the European Commission’s Align initiative and the most recent work of the CDC Biodiversity on measuring and assessing the impact of businesses on nature.
Biodiversity is a complex system made up of three pillars: genes, species and ecosystems. Currently, there is no methodology for measuring the impact of economic activity on all three pillars, but the most recent methodological models (GBS, Globio) recommend taking ecosystems (terrestrial and freshwater) into account as a minimum. In time, it will be necessary to analyse the impact of economic activities on species. Methodological tools such as IBAT (Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool) already exist and can be used for this analysis.
According to the recommendations of the Align project, published at the end of 2022, a biodiversity footprint can model the pressures exerted by an organisation on ecosystems or species within a given area.
At present, there are two ways of measuring an organisation’s biodiversity footprint:
- By undertaking an ecological inventory, i.e. a quantitative analysis of biodiversity in the field. This method provides an inventory of the current impacts on biodiversity at a specific site, but is not applicable at a large scale.
- By quantifying the company’s contribution to environmental pressures. This second method is known as the Biodiversity Footprint Assessment (BFA) and can be calculated using the CDC Biodiversity’s Global Biodiversity Score. At EcoAct, our experts are trained in the use of this tool to enable precise quantitative analysis of the biodiversity footprint, and of the entire value chain.
Calculating your company biodiversity footprint: An important first step in building your biodiversity strategy
Based on the most advanced methodological models, our experts will define your biodiversity footprint in several stages to support your overall biodiversity strategy:
Aligned with voluntary reporting frameworks such as the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) or the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), our methodology includes:
- A qualitative analysis of impacts and dependencies in relation to your business industry.
This initial analysis identifies the risks and opportunities to which the company is exposed. Thanks to this first stage, it will be easier to identify the issues that are specific to your industry and the priorities to be defined in order to limit both impact and dependencies.
- A quantitative analysis of impacts using the Global Biodiversity Score (Globio model), which measures the contribution of the company’s activities to the various pressures on nature defined by the IPBES:
There are several possible units of measurement for this quantification. At EcoAct, we use the MSA (Mean Species Abundance) per km².
If you want to go one step further, we can help you define a strategy and action plan based on the “Avoid, Reduce, Restore, Regenerate, Transform” pillars. Many examples of actions can be found in the guide to defining a Science Based Targets for Nature.
Despite the absence of a global standard for biodiversity assessment, companies are increasingly required to comply with the Kunming-Montreal Agreement reached at COP 15 on Biodiversity in December 2022. Much the same as carbon reporting, , it is very likely that biodiversity footprint measurements of some level will become mandatory for UK based companies in the coming years.
More and more voluntary and regulatory reporting frameworks are also incorporating biodiversity to encourage companies to address these issues (CDP, SBTN, CSRD, etc.).
There is an urgent need to limit the destruction of biodiversity and to take action now to reduce our impacts. Calculating your biodiversity footprint is an essential first step in understanding the challenges facing your organisation and prioritising the required actions.