Op-Ed | Fashion’s Obligation to End Nature Loss | Op Ed


Dr María Mendiluce is CEO of We Mean Business Coalition. Dr. Gerry Murphy is chair of Burberry.

The world is waking up to a stark reality: We cannot solve the climate crisis unless we also solve the nature crisis. Climate and nature are two mutually reinforcing pieces of the same puzzle. Climate change is accelerating the degradation of land and marine life, while the destruction of natural ecosystems is exacerbating climate change. Too often it is vulnerable communities that are hardest hit by these trends.

The point is most vividly illustrated by the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. This year, for the first time, scientists have calculated the Amazon released more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbed. The UN IPCC report published in August stated, beyond a doubt, that there is no possibility of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C without a near immediate halt to deforestation and significant restoration of land — and time is running out.

The COP26 Summit in Glasgow is a chance for global leaders to accelerate efforts to protect nature — delivering dramatic emission reductions from both fossil fuels and ensuring critical ecosystems like the Amazon provide emissions removal.

The commitment of the G7 to protect 30 percent of the land and ocean by 2030 is an important step towards becoming nature positive, paving the way for an international biodiversity agreement next year in Kunming, China.

Still, without a dramatic shift in behaviour, the continued destruction of nature will have truly disruptive consequences for the infrastructure that underpins our economic and social systems. This is why consumer goods industries — especially the fashion sector — with long and complex supply chains, a reliance on natural raw materials, and direct relationships with the customer, have a critical role to play in driving progress.

For companies, that means going further than net-zero by investing in high quality, nature-based solutions that will either reduce emissions or absorb carbon at the same time as protecting critical ecosystems. It’s important to be clear: These kinds of investments are not a substitute for the rapid and deep reduction of a company’s own value chain emissions. They are additional and will increase the likelihood that 1.5°C stays within our reach. In fact, companies need to be aiming for deep, long-term emissions reductions of at least 90 percent by 2050, as shown by the new Global Net-Zero Standard from the Science Based Targets initiative.

Make no mistake, this is a complex process. Assessing these kinds of solutions requires looking beyond traditional finance techniques. Impacts on nature are still harder to measure than carbon emissions, but that’s not an excuse for inaction. In fact, it means companies must pioneer new ways to assess their biodiversity footprint and leave landscapes better than they found them.

First, companies should partner with civil society organisations to build a data-led picture of how these investments impact the wider ecosystems and people who call these places home. Organisations like the Savory Institute, Biodiversity Consultancy and Natural Capital Research are great examples of institutions already working on helping build a more holistic picture of the risk and return profiles of investments in natural capital.

Second, there is an urgent need to mobilise capital at scale, which is why initiatives like the LEAF Coalition, which is expected to become the world’s largest public-private initiative to raise investment to protect tropical forests, are fundamental to accelerating progress.

Third, business needs to align with policymakers. There is a point beyond which private companies cannot act, which is why moments like COP26 are crucial to act as a catalyst for aligning the actions of the private sector, governments and civil society. For example, by finalising rules on Article 6 in a way that accelerates the development of robust carbon markets, underpinned by environmental integrity.

We are all in for 1.5ºC, which means we are laying the foundations for an equitable, resilient and sustainable future. To have the best possible chance of keeping the 1.5ºC pathway within reach, we must solve the nature crisis alongside the existential climate crisis.

Dr María Mendiluce is CEO of We Mean Business Coalition. Dr. Gerry Murphy is chair of Burberry.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.

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What Fashion Needs to Know About COP26

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