International Day for Biodiversity: Six ways businesses are approaching nature restoration and conservation


Biodiversity scientists estimate that a quarter of the plant and animal species known to mankind are threatened by human actions and will disappear in the years and decades to come without a change in the usual approaches to the use of natural resources and without more action to limit the rise in global temperature.

The loss of nature at this rate and on this scale would have a major impact on public health and efforts to improve climate adaptation. It would also cause major economic losses, as many of the world’s largest sectors rely heavily on natural resources and the services that nature provides. Research published to coincide with the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in 2020 concluded that around half of global GDP is highly or moderately dependent on nature.

Protecting and restoring nature should therefore be a key business priority for nature-dependent businesses as they seek to build resilience.

On the occasion of the United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity, this article highlights six initiatives supported by companies that are striving to make progress in this area. All of these initiatives have been launched over the past eight weeks.

  1. Restoration of Sheba’s “Hope Reef”

Coral reefs cover only 0.2% of the seabed, but they are home to at least a quarter of the world’s marine species. The UN estimates that 14% of the world’s coral was lost between 2009 and 2020, with challenges such as warmer and more acidic waters, as well as industrial fishing and unsustainable tourism, causing damage.

Last May, Mars Petcare brand Sheba announced a partnership with The Nature Conservancy on what it described, at the time, as the world’s largest coral restoration program. The “Hope Reef” restoration program, off Sulawesi, Indonesia, had been underway for two years.

A year later, Sheba confirmed that the reef’s coral cover had increased to 70%, from just 1% before an intervention. The Nature Conservancy reported sightings of fish that have not been recorded on the reef in over a decade, as well as a tripling of the number of fish per biomass. Biomass is one of the primary means by which the functional integrity of a reef is measured.

Sheba also confirmed that the ‘reef star system’ technology used to restore corals at the site, first used there, has now been rolled out to five other countries. “Reef Stars” are star-shaped steel structures that can be interconnected to create a “web” for coral to attach to.

  1. Artificial Reef from CCell Renewables

Continuing on the coral theme, British technology company CCell announced this month that it would install an artificial reef in Ramsey, Isle of Man, with the aim of protecting the marina walls from erosion and to stimulate biodiversity. The reef is expected to be in place in fiscal year 2024 – 2025.

CCell has been testing its “reef frame” systems in the Gulf of Mexico for the past 18 months, and the same systems will be added to Ramsey Marina. Frames are designed to help plants and seashells fit in. CCell will use electrolysers powered by locally generated renewable electricity to extract minerals from seawater and encourage the growth of mineral rock around the steel.

The reef will incorporate used scallop shells and, in the longer term, used mussel shells, both of which are by-products of the local fishing industry.

The area surrounding the marina walls will also host a major seagrass restoration project. The Ocean Conservation Trust will support the implementation of this programme. Seagrass has water purification and carbon sequestration benefits, but the UK has already lost around 92% of the seagrass cover it would have had a century ago. Other companies investing in seagrass restoration in the UK include Carlsberg and Sky.

  1. Tree planting and creek adopted by Fresh Del Monte

Moving from sea to land, and from Europe to Africa, Fresh Del Monte hosted an event last month at Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, Kenya, to facilitate community-led tree planting. The event saw around 3,500 tree seedlings of native species planted and another 2,500 seeds scattered as seed balls.

The national park is home to buffaloes, leopards, olive baboons, aardvarks, mongooses, pythons, monitor lizards, porcupines and dozens of bird species. Fresh Del Monte has supported nature improvement projects in the park for several years, having facilitated the planting of over 50,000 native trees to date. In particular, the Kenyan government aims to achieve 10% forest cover by the end of 2022, compared to 7.2% in 2019.

Elsewhere, Fresh Del Monte has “adopted” Cogon Creek, which is located near one of its main pineapple farms in the Philippines. Since adopting the Creek in 2018, the company has tested the Creek’s water quality every three months. It also funds regular creek cleanups and has invested in nature-based methods to prevent flooding.

  1. Unilever’s regenerative agriculture funding

Unilever has announced plans to spend €1 billion on climate and nature-related initiatives by 2030 in 2020. The funding will support the company’s transition to net zero, eliminating the deforestation of supply chains and the transition to solely biodegradable product formulations. Part of the funding is also being allocated to rolling out regenerative agriculture programs in ingredient supply chains, starting with those that source Knorr. Other suppliers also now have access to the tools of regenerative agriculture principles.

Building on this work, Unilever this month confirmed plans to invest €100 million in a new impact fund that will support the scaling up of regenerative agriculture processes globally. . AXA and Tikehau Capital also plan to invest €100 million each in the new fund. AXA’s financing will be done through its subsidiary AXA Climate. In total, the fund aims to raise €1bn.

Unilever isn’t the only major food company funding regenerative agriculture. Danone is allocating up to $20m (£15m) to help farms across North America implement regenerative practices, for example, while General Mills has a 2030 target to advance regenerative practices on a million acres of land. More and more SMEs, NGOs, ingredient suppliers and smallholder collectives are also carrying out essential work in this area.

  1. “Peas for the Bees” from Birds Eye

This fifth case study stays within the food system on earth but involves us zooming in on the UK. After announcing a partnership with WWF and an ambition to ensure all supplier farms have a positive impact on nature last year, Birds Eye parent company Nomad Foods is distributing 20,000 boxes of wildflower seeds to consumers based in the UK.

Shoppers will be able to win a box of wildflower seeds by buying garden peas or garden peas from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose or the Co-op. They must then scan the front of the pack and upload it by June 10. Those who receive a seed box will learn how to plant the seeds.

Birds Eye agricultural operations manager James Hopwood said the campaign will take the company’s biodiversity commitments “beyond our pea fields and into the nation’s green spaces”. The brand itself is working to plant 75 acres of wildflower meadows across the UK by the end of 2025. Increasing UK wildflower meadow coverage is helping efforts to to prevent the decline of bees and other insects and, by extension, insect-eating animals such as bats and hedgehogs.

  1. ‘Big Rewild’ of Innocents

Those passing by Trafalgar Square in London on April 27 will have noticed more than 6,000 plants set up to form a garden and a lion. The temporary exhibition was erected by innocent Drinks to mark the launch of a new campaign called ‘The Big Rewild’, although two million hectares of land across Europe will be reseeded by 2025.

Rewilding is the process of restoring land to its natural, uncultivated state. In the UK, the Big Rewild will provide funding and support for The Orchard project, which aims to improve the nature of existing urban orchards and create new orchards. Elsewhere, innocent Drinks has selected locally led projects in Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark.

It should be noted that Innocent’s launch event in London has come under scrutiny for environmental reasons. Several Twitter users asked the brand what would happen to the plants used for the display and how it planned to reduce emissions from the event. Innocent has confirmed that the offset will be used to address associated emissions and that all factories will be reused. He also urged the general public to look beyond the launch and into the wider planned work of the campaign.

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