So, we must ask the question, should any businesses or industries profit from ‘fixing’ an issue that they profited from creating?
I ask this question because as we reach a tipping point, after decades of minimal funding being given to the non-profit sector to preserve areas of biodiversity, or aid their recovery, the result is ‘too few solutions’ have been implemented for ‘far too long’ and business now sees an opportunity.
Pragmatically, we have to accept businesses involvement to a degree, but this involvement shouldn’t go unquestioned. They must be monitored, they must be regulated, there must be justice (including tax justice). While profits may be made, proper regulation and industry contributions must ensure they are not maximised solely for the benefit of shareholders. Perhaps the only companies allowed to participate in recovery projects should be:
- Companies that have a constitution that means that they are not legally obligated to maximise shareholder returns, e.g. B-Corp structures? Even then there must be verification.
- Companies which have a long and transparent history of contributing appropriate levels of company tax in all jurisdictions they operate in?
I give these examples to demonstrate that if business is involved in efforts to reverse nature loss, we must be more vigilant in the future than we have been in the past, there must be transparency and increasing levels of scrutiny. If businesses are unhappy about this increased level of scrutiny, then they must look in the mirror at their past performance and question their historic behaviour.
So, let’s take a look at one collaboration that started in 2019 called Business For Nature. On their website they say: “Business for Nature is a global coalition bringing together influential organizations. Together, we demonstrate business action and amplify a powerful business voice calling for governments to reverse nature loss.”. And the list of businesses and organisations that have signed up is comprehensive.
Most helpful is the presentation given by one of the drivers of the Business For Nature collaboration: World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The presentation talks about ‘needing a strong business voice’, ‘developing policy recommendation to governments’, ‘attend international events to amplify the business voice’ and ‘furthering the coalition’s objectives at industry events’. The heading of slide 9 is very interesting: But This Crisis Also Offers Some MASSIVE Business Opportunities
While business has been collaborating with corporate conservation for many years, something on the scale of Business For Nature is an evolution. At the same time, despite the lofty claims, what questions must be asked and answered to ensure that this is not business as usual? – namely, business calling the shots with government and making profit from ‘massive opportunities’ to ‘clean up’ the mess caused by business ignoring the true costs of extracting ‘value’ from nature.
If the people who care about what happens from this point on to the natural world question business motivations, then they need to accept that they have left us no choice. Decades of over-exploitation of natural resources and dumping waste into the environment without any consideration to the long-term consequences should make us all very cautious when it comes to business calling for ‘reversing nature loss’.