Tackling the nature and climate crises in Scotland is the biggest business opportunity this century, gathering of industry leaders hear

26/04/2023
A still from one of the films

MORE THAN 100 Scottish Business leaders from sectors including travel, energy, whisky, higher education and more joined two leading nature charities last night to discuss how they can tackle the nature and climate emergencies.

The event, supported by EICC Live and held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre by RSPB Scotland and WWF Scotland, hosted leading figures from across the business and corporate sector where they attended a screening of a new film – Save Our Wild Isles: The Business of Nature.

Nature is the foundation of the systems that allow businesses to function, yet Scotland is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Since 1970, 48% of Scottish species populations have declined. Nature loss and climate change are resulting in ecological breakdown at an unprecedented level, creating risks to businesses from supply chain disruption, asset losses, and fundamental shifts in how businesses operate.  

Despite this, only 3% of UK businesses currently monitor nature and biodiversity risks. According to the Treasury’s report on the economics of biodiversity – the Dasgupta Review, between 1992 and 2014, productivity doubled, but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40%.

As part of their Save the Wild Isles campaign, the charities are calling on businesses to put nature at the heart of every boardroom decision as businesses have a major impact on the natural world both in Scotland and globally through their value chains.

To help restore nature and protect the long-term future of their businesses, the charities are also calling for large companies to commit to nature-positive net-zero transition plans. 

As part of their campaign, the charities outline key actions for businesses, which need to:

·       Ensure nature is the heart of business decision-making

·       Assess their relationship with nature – their dependencies and impacts to include in transition plans

·       Set targets that are science based, measurable and time-bound

·       Take action for nature – stop destroying nature and reduce the impact of production and consumption, and

·       Use the power of their business to advocate for change across industries, suppliers, government, colleagues, relevant industry bodies and peers to protect and restore nature

The charities are launching four new films, produced by Silverback Films, makers of the BBC’s Wild Isles TV series. The films highlight the need for businesses to act with urgency to tackle the nature and climate crises together, which is described as the biggest business opportunity since the industrial revolution. They also highlight the risks to businesses that fail to account for their reliance on nature.

Speaking about the campaign, Deborah Meaden, business leader and investor, said: “I am confident that we can tackle the nature and climate crises – humans are very good at solving problems. What I am worried about is whether we can do it in time, and this is where businesses can play a major role – in accelerating action, driving innovation and seizing the many business opportunities that the inevitable changes to the global economy will bring.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, said: “The global financial system is more than $400 trillion of capital, many times more than the amount required to meaningfully address both the climate and nature crises. The influence it can have in leading a meaningful transition is huge. By aligning financial incentives properly, governments can ensure investment capital flows more effectively towards activities which support that transition. Doing so should not be seen as a cost, however; it is prudent risk management and a significant investment opportunity.”

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “Scotland sits 28th from the bottom in the Biodiversity Intactness Index – a global analysis used by the United Nations of how much human activity has impacted nature. Scotland is more depleted than 88% of 240 countries around the world.

In my lifetime 38 million birds have been lost from our UK skies – with our breeding populations now significantly diminished. We have a duty and responsibility to make things better.

We all share this responsibility, and if we work together and pool our expertise, knowledge and skills, I know we can make the changes that are required to meet this challenge.”

Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland, said: “Nature is not a ‘nice to have’, it is essential to providing us with the very things we need to survive – clean water and food. Without it supply chains will collapse and livelihoods will be decimated. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way and businesses here in Scotland are in a unique position to solve the nature crisis and help reverse climate change.  This requires every business, large and small, to take action and put nature on a path to recovery.”

The films feature over 20 business leaders already taking action including Deborah Meaden, Henry Dimbleby, the CEOs of NatWest, Tesco, and Triodos UK, the chair of the John Lewis Partnership, Aviva’s Chief Responsible Investment Officer, and other leading figures.

The charities stress that it is not the role of businesses alone. Governments need to step up and support businesses, farmers, and the fishing industry to transition to nature-positive net-zero businesses. The UK Government must require all large companies toincorporate nature into their climate transition plans and start on a journey to a net-zero and nature-positive future.

The films will are on YouTube and the Save Our Wild Isles Website at https://www.saveourwildisles.org.uk/

The latest stories