How Chief Sustainability Officers can effectively measure and track biodiversity impact in 2023
By Abhishek Vinod Singh, Co-Founder and CEO of AiDash
We have just conducted a global cross-sector survey, interviewing senior sustainability decision-makers from over 500 medium-to-large firms on key topics including GHG emissions reduction, carbon offsetting, and biodiversity impact.
The majority of the findings will be published in a report on January 17th. However, with COP15 recently taking place, and the landmark agreement reached by governments to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, I have been thinking hard about the role businesses can and need to play in protecting global biodiversity.
Looking at our survey answers on biodiversity, there is much to be done. The results revealed that 75% of businesses do not currently include biodiversity impact in their sustainability plans – an alarming statistic.
Measuring biodiversity is undoubtedly a challenging task. Traditional solutions are frequently manual and highly complex, involving sending ecologists to collect data from key areas and extrapolate findings for an entire site. These measurements are also inherently incomplete, prone to unconscious bias, and can be expensive and time consuming for large areas or distributed tracts of land. It’s a daunting task.
However, while the current level of action on biodiversity impact as part of sustainability plans feels wholly inadequate, the survey also revealed this is set to change in 2023, with nearly two-thirds (66%) of companies confirming they already had a dedicated biodiversity role in place and, of those that hadn’t, a significant proportion confirmed they had plans to create such a position.
This is very encouraging.
We have seen how quickly businesses can act on critical environmental issues when they put their minds, investment, and talent to work. To preview a few additional findings from the survey, strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were shown to be high on the agenda already, with 98% of respondents stating they are exceeding legal requirements, and 69% aiming to hit net-zero on or before 2030. With the vast proportion of consequential sustainability planning occurring within just the last two years, according to the survey, businesses have demonstrated their ability to respond even before global and regional frameworks are agreed upon.
With the speed at which biodiversity is declining – the UK has lost approximately half of its biodiversity since the 1970s according to research by the Natural History Museum – businesses need to embrace advances in technology to enact swift, efficient, and meaningful biodiversity net gain across their land.
There is a huge amount of natural capital locked within corporate landholdings, especially for large land-owning industries such as utilities, mining, farming, and timber. The ability for these businesses to improve biodiversity on their land and contribute to the safeguarding of global biodiversity is significant, but frequently overlooked.
With 2023 set to be a critical year for corporate biodiversity impact strategies, I have pulled together my top three tips for chief sustainability officers looking to get ahead of the revolution.
- Get the data you need to form an accurate and reliable baseline of the state of biodiversity on your land. You cannot identify the biggest biodiversity net gain opportunities or track the progress of the actions you take without this.
- Look to advances in satellite and AI technology to help you – legacy methods are expensive and time consuming and no one has money or time to burn these days. The adoption of this technology to support the rapid acceleration of biodiversity impact strategies is critical.
- Monitor, monitor, monitor – your sustainability strategy is only as robust as the data you have to prove your metrics. You need to show that any gains you make are a result of additional environmental value and are long-lasting.
It is clear to me that only a modern technology-based approach to biodiversity management will enable organizations to reach their 2023 land sustainability goals. At AiDash, we have the tools businesses need to enact this change. AiDash’s Intelligent Sustainability Management System (ISMS) analyzes up to 100% of a site and delivers accurate, objective measurements in about a week, without guesswork. ISMS also operationalizes biodiversity management programs all the way from initial measurements through to regulatory reporting.
Using satellites and AI, ISMS climate technology takes stock of the current environment, from tree cover to wetlands, and enables end-to-end planning to manage carbon offset and biodiversity efforts. ISMS helps local governments as well as gas and electric utilities, water and wastewater utilities, and construction companies to:
- Assess the environment quickly and accurately with fast, easy, and economical satellite measurements that cover 100% of the area.
- Identify targets and steps by combining ground information with satellite measurements in a single dashboard.
- Operationalize with effective plans that put biodiversity net gain targets into action.
- Avoid the GHG emissions inherent in sending cars and trucks into sites for survey work.
To manage their end-to-end biodiversity programs and meet their government deadlines, many companies and local governments have already started using ISMS’s transformational biodiversity management capabilities, including two major UK water utilities, power and gas utilities, as well as large forest and land owners.
Furthermore, for many businesses, biodiversity net gain will soon be a legal requirement. In the UK, the Environment Act 2021 establishes biodiversity as one of four targets for recovery of the natural world. It requires 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) in new developments. The enforcement of the Environment Act 2021 will be in place across the UK by the end of 2023.
In Europe, the European Commission proposed a new Nature Restoration Law with an overarching target to restore 20% of the EU’s land and sea area by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. This includes restoring agricultural ecosystems and increasing grassland butterfly and farmland bird populations.
And in the U.S. a number of bills are in development, or already in effect, including Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2022, for conservation or restoration of wildlife and plant species, and Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment Act (SAFE Act, 2021), which responds to the effects of extreme weather and climate change on fish, wildlife, and plants.
The reality is that there are a host of reasons to accelerate biodiversity impact plans, which can no longer be ignored. Whether businesses are motivated by environmental, societal, financial, or legal reasons, 2023 will be a big year for corporate biodiversity action.
We look forward to playing a critical enabling role.