Big Business & Biodiversity Loss – The ElephantNot in the Room

Scrolling through Linkedin, it is clear that the urgency of our climate crisis has reached the boardroom of multinational corporations globally. Plastic waste and carbon-tackling agendas abound, with more statements of intent being inked, published and released by the day.

Here at Ecotone, there is plenty of intense scrutiny in this crucial space. We are a house of purposeful brands that has put sustainability at the core of what we sell and do for over 30 years, pioneering organic and vegetarian food well before sustainable farming and plant-rich diets found their rightful place in the zeitgeist.

In our pursuit of better, like many others, we’ve been on the well-trodden path of recyclable packaging and carbon reduction, but in the past year or so we felt there was a big piece missing from the ‘do better business’ puzzle. When it came to sustainable success, we realised no-one was talking about the elephant not in the room.

That absent elephant is the biodiversity collapse steamrolling our planet’s natural systems. Biodiversity – the mind boggling complexity of wildlife that sustains life on earth, is seeping away. Yes, we hear about the loss of iconic individual species that must be prized, from orangutans and kiwis to honeybees and pangolins, but in some ways that misses the bigger point. One million species now face extinction, but it is not the richness of life that we may ultimately consider our greatest loss.

As humans we are part of an extraordinarily complex interconnected set of ecosystems that interact and respond, ultimately giving this planet the resilience to adapt to change. The ecosystems, plants and creatures that power that adaptability have evolved over millennia, but the rate of species loss we are now witnessing will see the engine room of our planet emptying in a matter of decades. Simply put, there will be too few species left to fill the spaces remaining. It is the subsequent collapse of our planet’s life systems that is a threat arguably as big as climate change, and each will, in all likelihood, accelerate the other.

Scientists describe the many human benefits inherent in Earth’s natural biodiversity as ‘ecosystem services’, whether that’s trees producing oxygen, insects pollinating crops, microbes and earthworms creating healthy soils to grow food in, seagrass providing carbon sinks, or simply natural places providing a balm for our escalating mental health crisis.

So this is Ecotone sending up a rallying cry to the business world on the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity, making a stand for this unsung and poorly understood hero. The climate crisis is real. Biodiversity collapse is real. The former is getting attention, the latter is as deserving. But what can we do about it?

To improve anything, first you must measure. This is why, as part of our biodiversity strategy, we at Ecotone have decided to take our commitment to nature one step further by joining the Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN) engagement program. SBTN is a global coalition of environmental experts and NGOs that uses scientific solutions to reduce corporate environmental impacts and restore nature, in line with scientific objectives. The aim is for this to be the missing system of measurement to capture every business’s impact on species diversity, because we all need to use the same impartial tools to truly challenge ourselves to make progress. Because the danger is that we get more greenwash, unless we can all be held to account with numbers, not hot air and marketing spin. We need restoration and real change, not rhetoric.

We believe that what we eat will change the future. Let’s start talking about that elephant, and get it back in the (board) room.