Why nature is the next frontier for sustainable business

September 24, 2020 by  
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Why nature is the next frontier for sustainable business Erin Billman Thu, 09/24/2020 – 01:15 It has been encouraging to see company and government commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions coming thick and fast in recent months, even despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes announcements from corporate giants Facebook , Uber and Amazon . America’s Pledge has just revealed that U.S. businesses, states and cities accelerated their action on climate in 2020. Businesses are increasingly seeing that climate action is not only the right thing to do but it brings material benefits such as increased investment, improved reputation and overall competitive advantage. For example, investor BlackRock is asking that by the end of 2020, companies issue reports aligned with the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. However, climate action alone is no longer enough to fend off the multiple environmental crises that our planet is facing. Nature — by which I mean the land, biodiversity, water and ocean we all depend on — is reaching a point of no return. As the World Economic Forum’s recent New Nature Economy report stated, there is no future for business as usual. The loss of nature poses a direct threat to economic activities currently responsible for generating over half of GDP. Since 2015, companies have been able to use science to ensure their efforts to tackle climate change are sufficiently ambitious. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) was set up to facilitate this — to enable companies to ensure their efforts are “at least enough.” The corporate world has embraced this, using the SBTi methods and resources available to help them set and validate their climate targets for greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 1,000 companies are signed up, along with spin-off platforms such as the recently launched SME Climate Hub , which will help companies tackle their challenging Scope 3 emissions, particularly within their supply chains. What does this all mean for nature? While these efforts to tackle climate change can have some positive impacts on reducing nature loss to some extent, they are nowhere near enough and can create unintended consequences. Companies need to look holistically at all their impacts and dependencies on both climate and nature. We need to halve emissions by 2030, and we need to reverse nature loss. Neither is possible without the other. The interim targets provided in the guidance give companies direction they can align with now, across land use, freshwater use, climate impact and ecosystem regeneration. But when it comes to tackling nature loss, it is currently difficult for companies to know where to start or prioritize efforts. Until now there hasn’t been a framework that ties them together. The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) was formed to provide this. It is comprised of more than 45 organizations working together to provide science-based targets for companies and cities. It builds on the momentum of the SBTi to enable companies to set targets beyond climate. It is part of the Global Commons Alliance which aims to create the world’s most powerful network to scale action to protect the planet. Now, the organization has published its first consensus guidance for companies on how to restore balance to the global commons by operating within Earth’s limits while meeting society’s needs. The guidance has been reviewed by 65 people from businesses, consultancies, NGOs and academic institutions. Our 14 business reviewers included representatives from Mars, Unilever and Kering — all of which are keen to remain involved with the SBTN and use the guidance in their own organizations.  Companies can use the guidance to help understand how to assess, prioritize, measure, address and track their impacts and dependencies on nature in line with science. In addressing their impacts and dependencies. It introduces an action framework that companies can follow to avoid future impacts, reduce current impacts, regenerate and restore ecosystems, alongside working to transform the systems in which they are embedded. The interim targets provided in the guidance give companies direction they can align with now, across land use, freshwater use, climate impact and ecosystem regeneration. The resource was developed to consolidate and build on multiple existing efforts companies are already involved in to protect nature rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. For example, they already can set targets to cut their emissions through the Science Based Targets initiative . For land use change targets, specifically deforestation and conversion, we signpost to the Accountability Framework Initiative . For water quantity and quality targets, the guidance directs companies to use contextual targets for water . For ecosystem integrity, specifically on working lands, the guidance recommends using regenerative agricultural practices in line with the European Commission. The guidance is also aligned with global frameworks including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to enable companies to consider their impacts on people in the land and seascapes where they operate. The goal is to engage with businesses to develop and refine this guidance in the coming months to ensure it is as easy to use and effective as possible. For companies, the main nature-related risk is inaction. Now is the time to get started as some steps required to prepare for science-based target setting can take time to do well. The future of all life on Earth depends on us fundamentally changing our relationship with nature now and building an equitable, nature-positive, net-zero carbon future. We urge all companies to get involved and join us on this journey. Pull Quote The interim targets provided in the guidance give companies direction they can align with now, across land use, freshwater use, climate impact and ecosystem regeneration. Topics Natural Capital Corporate Strategy Biodiversity Land Use Water Conservation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Why nature is the next frontier for sustainable business

4 things corporations should know about urban forestry projects

September 24, 2020 by  
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4 things corporations should know about urban forestry projects Jesse Klein Thu, 09/24/2020 – 01:00 It’s hard to make planting trees political, one reason this climate mitigation strategy has received rare bipartisan support for the past two decades. Corporations have used that to their advantage to become an important part of the tree planting business . Funding tree planting in rural areas across the globe was an easy way for businesses to invest in green initiatives and to win points with the general public.  But urban forestry has a different history. The canopy of trees in cities often corresponds to maps of redlining, income and race. That’s one reason investing in urban forestry isn’t as simple; nor does it have the same sustainability impacts. Regardless of those challenges, more businesses are deciding to put their money behind forestry projects in cities. In 2013, American Forests called Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and New York; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; Seattle and Washington, D.C., the 10 best cities for urban forestry. In a 2016 study, Seattle determined 28 percent of the city is covered in trees, close to its 2037 goal of 30 percent. D.C. hopes to cover 40 percent of its district with canopy by 2032.  That has attracted the attention of companies. Amazon, for example, recently announced a $4.37 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy to support an initiative in Berlin. And for the past few years, Bank of America has partnered with American Forests on the Community ReLeaf Program , planting nearly 3,000 trees in 19 cities. One impressive goal for this partnership is to bring 200,000 trees to Detroit. As Microsoft builds data centers in Iowa, it is also investing in urban forestry projects to bring an environmental and health benefit to the neighborhood as well. A project that planted 734 trees created total savings of $56,693 per year through energy savings, air quality and rain interception for the city.  Here are four things sustainability teams should know when considering the urban tree business. 1. You can get carbon credits for urban forestry   Because urban forestry generally has a relatively low carbon removal impact, fewer organizations are focused on creating carbon credits for these projects. According to McPherson, City Forest Credits thinks of itself as a LEED system for urban forestry. It connects businesses with urban forestry projects and then issues a certified carbon credit.  But because urban forestry has so many ancillary benefits not included in the carbon credit, McPherson’s company also issues a bundled credit that includes the health benefits of urban trees and it is working on an impact scorecard. City Forest Credits worked with scientists to quantify the exact health benefits of each tree, creating a measurement scheme similar to carbon removal metrics. “We can assess a project’s equity and health impacts, and then we’ve mapped those impacts to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.  But as is the case with renewable energy credits, there are worries that carbon credits could give businesses the same license-to-pollute mentality. McPherson sees it differently.  “Trees are like going on the offense,” he said. “They’re not just playing defense against climate, they are actually pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s real.” 2. Urban forestry could create more impact with less volume For many years, urban forestry projects were unattractive to corporations because you couldn’t plant enough trees in an urban environment to achieve a meaningful carbon dioxide removal impact. Carbon removal was seen as the only benefit of trees and the only way corporations could quantify a project’s impact.  But urban forests have myriad other benefits that are becoming more understood and easier to measure: They have been demonstrated to help control stormwater, lower energy costs, improve air quality and provide both physical and mental health benefits. And if placed intentionally in the most needed areas, trees can have a profound effect in addressing environmental justice concerns. Partnerships with NGOs and businesses can bring trees to urban heat islands and help engage youth in the area.// Courtesy of City Forest Credits In Richmond, Virginia, for example, a 65-acre African-American forested cemetery was struggling economically, and the owner considered logging the trees to keep it as a pillar in the community. Instead, the organization opted for an urban forestry project with City Forest Credits that conserved the trees and created earnings for the cemetery by generating 5,376 carbon credits to sell. As a result, the trees continued to be an environmental asset to the community, important African-American history was conserved and the credits could benefit other corporations on their environmental goals. A threefold impact. “There’s a strong desire to have projects that benefit people,” said Mark McPherson, founder of City Forest Credits. “And the urban forest is obviously where people live and breathe and recreate.” 3. Urban forests are more expensive   Sustainability experts might be familiar with the dollar-per-tree model, but that isn’t true of urban forestry. The different cost structures for a city tree can come as a surprise to corporations. Urban land is expensive. The installation of mature trees is expensive. Maintaining trees is expensive.  Unlike wild forests where a planter can spread out a hundred seedlings easily and walk away, urban forestry requires more labor, planning and permits.  “We plant much more mature trees [in cities],” said Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests. “So they have a greater likelihood of surviving and so we can get the benefits more quickly, but that also makes them more expensive.” Corporations may opt to create a diverse portfolio of forestry projects, doing large landscape projects in rural areas for sequestering carbon and then supporting a few urban forestry projects for immediate contribution to the neighborhood. 4. An NGO isn’t a consultant Working with an NGO is a great way to contribute to an urban forestry project. But Lynn Scarlett, head of the external affairs division for The Nature Conservancy, working with Amazon on the Berlin project, stressed that companies shouldn’t treat NGOs as consultants.  “It’s a collaborative partnership between an NGO and a company,” Scarlett said. “We have our goals, and those are always front and center stage for us. Always. We look at partnerships that advance our mission.” Scarlett said companies usually team with The Nature Conservancy when they’ve determined that there are shared goals but they don’t necessarily have the full knowledge to execute them.  So while an NGO can help steer a company in the right direction, its goals might not overlap 100 percent with those of a company seeking to work on urban forestry. NGOs can act as the link between the money, the mission, the regulatory agencies and the population.  “NGOs can help bring together all stakeholders required,” said Kerstin Pfliegner, Germany director at The Nature Conservancy. “We can work well with governments and corporates while being close to civil society and communities.” Topics Forestry Social Justice Carbon Removal Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Urban forestry such as at this cemetery protected in part by a City Forest Credits project are becoming important parts of corporate sustainability and equality strategies. Courtesy of City Forest Credits. 

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4 things corporations should know about urban forestry projects

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