WBA’s Nature Benchmark, developed with feedback from almost 100 organisations, reviewed the policies and practices of companies spanning eight sectors with a particularly significant impact on nature, including the apparel and footwear industry. The list includes influential corporates from across the world, such as Kering, Rio Tinto and Novartis.

Founded in 2018, the WBA provides companies with a clear roadmap of what commitments and changes they must make to put our planet, society and economy on a more sustainable and resilient path.

The report highlights that although the value chains of many major businesses contribute to biodiversity loss, only 5% of 389 companies analysed have carried out a science-based assessment to show how their operations impact nature and biodiversity.

“Nature is currently a significant blind-spot, with 97% of companies in the Benchmark yet to commit to a nature-positive trajectory by 2030. Less than 1% of companies know how much their operations depend on nature.”

In contrast to the lack of business action on nature, “50% of companies assessed are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” And yet, WBA says, net zero will not be possible without protecting forests, water sources, biodiversity, and air quality – so rapid action to protect nature and halt biodiversity loss is essential for every business and industry.

“Harnessing the knowledge and insights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples within nature-related business operations is critical, as they can maximise proven practices to ensure effective ecosystem protection,” the report reads. “Despite this, fewer than 13% of companies have a clear commitment to adhere to Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

“When deciding how to carry out projects with the potential to affect Indigenous Peoples and local communities, companies must secure ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ to guarantee people’s role in deciding the future of their territories. Yet only 5% of companies commit to respecting this. In addition, just 2% have a policy in place to prevent violent outcomes resulting from the persecution of environmental and human rights-defenders.”

Vicky Sins, WBA’s nature transformation lead, said: “We cannot achieve a net zero future without protecting the natural world and its communities. The urgent first step for companies is to carry out a deep assessment on nature. Without understanding their relationship to nature and how operations are either harming or helping biodiversity, how can businesses grasp what action to take? Companies must measure and report on how they interact with nature – including how their activities affect deforestation, pollution, and nature loss.

“A crucial aim of COP15 is to achieve a ‘Paris Agreement for nature’, but protecting nature isn’t feasible without the vital role of the private sector. We need all businesses to be clear that their success is closely linked to their relationship with the natural world around them – on which so many of them rely. Businesses are set to face increasing accountability on nature – which will have a major positive impact.”

WBA is calling on policymakers around the world to mandate the assessment and disclosure of business’ impacts and dependencies on nature at COP15, as part of Business for Nature’s Make it Mandatory campaign.

The non-profit group is also urging companies to improve their transparency on biodiversity hotspots and endangered species. It mentioned ways in which companies can improve biodiversity, including committing to avoiding ecosystem conversion by tackling deforestation or protecting wetlands. However, it said, less than 5% of companies are doing this.

“The soon-to-be published Global Biodiversity Framework presents the opportunity for companies to be further guided and held accountable on their path towards a nature-positive future. WBA is calling for this landmark Framework to be clear about expectations of companies. Requiring businesses to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity by 2030 is essential.”

The Benchmark’s official presentation is set to take place this week at COP15, the UN’s 2022 Montreal Biodiversity Conference.

The Nature Benchmark methodology was developed alongside partners including the Science Based Targets Network, Global Reporting Initiative, World Wildlife Fund, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures. Almost 100 organisations provided feedback for the development of the methodology.

To expand the Nature Benchmark, the World Benchmarking Alliance will assess 600 further companies during 2023 and 2024. The full methodology for the 2022 Nature Benchmark by WBA can be accessed here.