How leveraging the Nature Net Zero Nexus can accelerate the transition to net zero

19 Apr · 4 min read

On Earth Day April 22, 2023, business, governments and citizens alike are being urged to invest in the planet. In fact, for businesses to reach their climate and net zero goals, investing in nature is a must.

The most recent IPCC reports and latest science illustrate the inextricable connection between climate and nature.

Nature’s contribution to net zero

Without a focus on nature, it is impossible for companies to meet net zero goals. The World Economic Forum May 2021 report, Nature and Net Zero, forecasts that at least 30% of climate mitigation potential between now and 2030 resides with nature.

The nature and net zero nexus is where nature goals contribute to net zero goals. Transform to Net Zero member companies have shared examples from their own businesses to illustrate how to incorporate initiatives which protect and restore nature alongside climate commitments.

Setting twin climate and nature goals

GSK: In November 2020, global biopharma company GSK set ambitious goals to have a net zero impact on climate and a net positive impact on nature across its entire value chain – from raw materials to patient. From the very start these were twin goals – recognizing that the two are interdependent and there is no pathway to net zero without including nature.

As part of its nature goal, GSK set clear and measurable targets on water, biodiversity, waste and materials and is making important progress on early ‘no regret’ actions. GSK has also undertaken a full value chain materiality assessment to deepen its understanding of nature impacts and dependencies, in line with the latest available guidance from the Science-Based Network for Nature (SBTN) and the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD). Mapping materiality across both climate and nature helped GSK spot opportunities, and it has found that impactful levers drive positive change on both fronts.

Whilst focused on taking action to reduce carbon emissions and impacts on nature, GSK is also investing in high quality nature protection and restoration projects that deliver co-benefits to human health, such as a project in Indonesia that aims to restore more than 2,500 hectares of mangroves through community-led projects.

Creating a business model to protect species

Natura &Co: For the past 20 years, Natura has worked to protect the Amazon, and as a group of companies Natura &Co is continuing that commitment. Natura develops business models that seek to value the economy of the standing forest, combining science, nature and traditional knowledge.

A good example is the endangered Uccuba tree which, due to extensive felling for plywood, was on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and extinction was expected by 2050.

Natura identified the potential use of Ucuuba seeds in 2004, while mapping raw materials found in the Amazon with the view of developing oils and butters, and mobilized community members to cultivate rather than fell the trees. The annual harvest of a tree yields three times more income for the communities than logging. The Ucuuba wood generated between R$ 10 and R$ 20 per tree for communities in a single event. The seed extraction generates an average of R$ 25 per plant, per annum for an average of 10 years.

This production chain also contributes to the conservation of two million hectares of standing forest, which is equivalent to 2.7 million soccer pitches and involves five riverside rural supplier communities, directly involving 1,218 agro-extractive farming families.

Using technology to prioritize forest restoration

Unilever: Unilever has committed to achieving a deforestation-free supply chain by the end of 2023, for palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy and cocoa. This work forms part of Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan for reaching net zero emissions by 2039.

One example of Unilever’s progress towards this goal and beyond is its integration of cutting-edge technology solutions – including Artificial Intelligence (AI), crowdsourcing and blockchain – into its sourcing in order to obtain greater traceability and transparency in its supply chain. For instance, Unilever’s partnership with Descartes Labs applies AI to satellite imagery to detect changes in forest cover and provide highly accurate deforestation alerts in the areas Unilever’s commodities come from, even in regions like Southeast Asia where cloud cover can be a challenge. Measuring the amount of carbon stored by different types of forests helps Unilever identify priority areas for forest restoration.

Unilever has also established a €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund to drive brand investment in projects that will positively address climate change and protect nature, for example, through forest protection and regeneration

Supporting biodiversity alongside renewable energy

Ørsted: In the space of a decade, Ørsted has transitioned from one of the most coal-intensive energy companies in Europe to become a global renewable energy major. In recent years, the company has added to its decarbonization plan an ambition for net-positive biodiversity impact to unite action on climate and nature.

Work is well underway and the company is partnering with leading conservation organizations and research institutions to find and refine the best solutions that can be developed at scale to integrate biodiversity into how it deploys renewable energy. In the UK, it’s embarked on a seascape restoration project around the Humber estuary to replenish and strengthen the local ecosystem. In Taiwan, the company is testing a novel concept to support coral reefs by growing corals on offshore wind turbine foundations. In Denmark, it has installed 3D-printed reefs to increase the number of habitats for cod and improve the resilience of the ecosystem.

With new global standards on nature following the same trajectory as the development of climate reporting standards to define corporate action and disclosure, businesses will do well to leverage the nature net zero nexus to meet their nature and climate commitments.

19 Apr - 4 min read