Australian SDGs Hub for Business

                                

Forests cover 30% of Earth’s land area and provide approximately 1.6 billion people, including 70 million indigenous people, with a livelihood.1 Humanity depends on forests as a buffer against climate change through the removal of carbon dioxide in the air or, in the case of mature forests, as a carbon store.

Balanced against that environmental need for forests, some 2.4 billion people are dependent upon wood for cooking, heating and electricity, with this demand equivalent to about half of global wood production.2 And deforestation for commercial purposes is mostly linked to agriculture, livestock farming, urbanisation and mining, all of which have a role to play in meeting other development goals.

The rate of deforestation has slowed with the planting of new forests, natural expansion of existing forests and land restoration efforts. In the period 2010-2015, the global net loss of forest areas was 3.3 million hectares/year, down from 7.3 million hectares/year in the 1990s.3 And in early 2017, the first UN Strategic Plan for Forests saw countries agree to expand the world’s forests by 120 million hectares, an area about the size of South Africa, by 2030.4

Australia is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries. Its flora and fauna are renowned for their diversity, endemism and evolutionary adaptations, while being profoundly connected to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

However, the country’s biodiversity is under threat, according to a 2016 State of the Environment Report.5 The rate and magnitude of climate change, compounded by other pressures, such as feral animals, habitat fragmentation and degradation, are beginning to seriously challenge the natural adaptive capacity of the country’s biodiversity.5

 

How is this relevant to business?

Investors and customers are increasing aware and proactive on this issue and companies that fail to act responsibly will increasingly find their reputations tainted.

On the flip side, there is an environmental, social and commercial dividend from acting to mitigate such environmental degradation.

Risk assessment is another angle, as damage to biodiversity, extreme weather events and water issues influence the availability, quality and costs of commodities.

“More than ever before, deforestation needs to be firmly on the boardroom agenda. With a clear financial dependency on these forest risk commodities, growing investor expectations, a changing regulatory environment, and the rise of consumer campaigns impacting brand reputations, companies’ deforestation actions are under intense scrutiny. Long-term profitability is at stake.’ Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP

 

What can business do?

Deforestation and other business activities that render arable land unfit for food production have done untold damage to the environment, exacerbating problems of poverty, biodiversity, socio-economic stability and sustainable development.

As a first step, business should assess the impact of operations on forests and landscapes more generally, and make plans to mitigate damaging behaviours. There are many sophisticated tools available to help measure impact and develop proactive policies.

This goal provides scope for companies to investigate what is happening throughout the supply chain and use their sphere of influence to encourage suppliers and other stakeholders to do better.

As investors and consumers factor environmental behaviour by corporates into their decision making, this represents a reputational and competitive advantage.

Act responsibly

Find Opportunity

  • Research, analyse and value natural capital and ecosystem services. Use these values in strategic and operational decision making, impact monitoring and assessment, internal management reporting and external integrated reporting
  • Consider certification of sustainably sourced soy, palm oil and timber/paper
  • Consider the Natural Capital Protocol in making assessments and better manage direct and indirect interactions with natural capital
  • Share data, research and tools to increase understanding of the dynamics and value of ecosystem services to send an economic signal for increased investment in the protection and restoration of natural habitats which will in turn reduce insurable and investment risk.

 

Links Between Goal 1 and the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles

Human Rights & Labour (UN Global Compact Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Life on land dictates our ability to grow food and sustain an environment conducive to human occupation. It speaks to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a key component of an adequate standard of living.

Environment (UN Global Compact Principles 7, 8, 9)

Forests are home to about 80% of remaining terrestrial biodiversity and are critical to regulation of water cycles, soil quality and the reduction of risks of natural disasters, such as floods.6 Deforestation is an important contributor to climate change, which in turn brings further environmental ramifications for biodiversity and extreme weather patterns.

Anti-Corruption (UN Global Compact Principle 10)

Illegal logging threatens livelihoods, ruins habitats and contributes to climate change. It makes like more difficult for those who rely on forests and denies others a legitimate income. Corruption in relation to Goal 15 also includes dumping of hazardous waste and the embezzlement of funds destined for environmental projects.

 


1 United Nations, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/biodiversity/

2 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2017), http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/key-messages/en/

3 United Nations, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg15

4 United Nations (2017), http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2017/01/un-forum-sets-landmark-target-to-increase-worlds-forests-by-120-million-hectares-by-2030/

5 Department of the Environment and Energy (2016), https://soe.environment.gov.au/sites/g/files/net806/f/soe2016-biodiversity-launch-version2-24feb17.pdf?v=1488792935

6 The World Bank, 2013, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/forests/brief/forest-and-environment

GOAL TARGETS

15.1
By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

15.2
By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

15.3
By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

15.4
By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development

15.5
Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

15.6
Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed

15.7
Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products

15.8
By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

15.9
By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts

15.a
Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems

15.b
Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation

15.c
Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities

 

FURTHER RESOURCES

The ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES) is a networked software technology that seeks to quantify the benefits of nature to societies to help better-informed policy decisions.


Biodiversity Risk & Opportunity Assessment (BROA): Companies with agricultural supply chains use BROA to assess impacts and dependence on biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, Identify and prioritise risks and opportunities, work with local stakeholders and create action and monitoring plans.


The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review is a structured methodology that helps companies develop strategies to manage business risks and opportunities arising from dependence and impact on ecosystems.


Data Basin is a science-based mapping and analysis platform that supports learning, research, and sustainable environmental stewardship.


Eco4Biz provides ecosystem services and biodiversity tools to support decision making, and a decision tree framework.


The Ecosystem Services Review in Impact Assessment (ESR for IA) provides practical instructions to environmental and social practitioners on how to incorporate ecosystem services throughout environmental and social impact assessment.


Global Forest Watch (GFW) is a free, simple-to-use interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to help improve forest management and conservation. GFW provides timely and precise information about the status of forest landscapes worldwide, including near-real-time alerts showing suspected locations of recent tree cover loss.


The Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation is a framework to enable companies to consider the actual benefits and value of the ecosystem services they depend upon and impact, giving them new information and insights to include in business planning and financial analysis. It supports improved business decision-making by helping align the financial, ecological and societal objectives.


The Guide to investing in locally controlled forestry is a tool for practical action – providing guidance on how to structure enabling investments and prepare the ground for asset investments that yield acceptable returns and reduced risk, not only for investors, but also for local forest right-holders, national governments and society at large.


The High Conservation Value (HCV) Resource Network offers a process in which High Conservation Values are identified, managed and monitored in forestry and agricultural production. HCVs are biological, ecological, social or cultural values which are considered outstandingly significant or critically important, at the national, regional or global level.


The Global Impact Investing Network’s Impact Reporting & Investment Standards (IRIS) is a free catalogue of generally-accepted performance metrics used by leading impact investors.


The Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT for Business) is a biodiversity screening tool for financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, The World Bank, and a number of Equator Principles Financial Institutions and OECD Export Credit Agencies. The test allows for rapid review against their respective environmental and social standards and safeguards.


Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) is a suite of software models used to map and value the goods and services from nature that sustain and fulfill human life. InVEST enables decision makers to assess quantified tradeoffs associated with alternative management choices and to identify areas where investment in natural capital can enhance human development and conservation.


Normative Biodiversity Metric (NBM) is a methodology to apply a measure of ecosystem pristineness combined with a measure of endangered species presence to assess and score company-owned land. Businesses report on changes to the biodiversity score on their land.


The Sustainable Forest Finance Toolkit provides guidance for financial institutions to better manage risks related to investments in forestry and industrial projects that have forest impacts.


The Sustainable Procurement Guide for Wood and Paper-based Products is a guide to help sustainability and procurement managers make informed choices on the forest products they buy. It identifies key issues that underpin responsible procurement of wood and paper-based products, provides resources and advice that address each issue. It can be used to develop and implement procurement policies that reduce risk and create transparency throughout supply chains and ultimately support sustainable forest management.


The WBCSD’s Global Water Tool is a free, publicly available resource for identifying corporate water risks and opportunities. It includes a workbook (data input, inventory by site, key reporting indicators, metrics calculations), a mapping function to plot sites with datasets, and Google Earth interface for spatial viewing. The Global Water Tool has also been customised to individual sectors (versions available for download on the WBCSD website). The India Water Tool (IWT) is also available on the website.


For more goal-related tools, go to the Inventory of Business Tools webpage on the SDG Compass website. Businesses can explore and find commonly used tools when assessing their impact on SDGs.