Biodiversity – challenges and opportunities

Mark Gough, CEO at Capitals Coalition: uniting natural, social and human capital communities

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With the UN Biodiversity COP15 due to take place in Montreal in December, London Business School’s Dr. Ioannis Ioannou spoke to Mark Gough, the CEO of the Capitals Coalition about biodiversity and the private sector’s role in halting nature loss.

The discussion, which was convened by LBS’s Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, as part of the Business Schools for Climate Leadership initiative, focused, among other issues, on the challenges that countries are having related to the adoption of mandatory assessment and disclosure requirements on biodiversity for all large business and financial institutions by 2030.

Mandatory assessment and disclosure may have the potential to create fair competition for businesses, increase accountability, engage investors, empower consumers, involve Small to Medium Sized Enterprise (SMEs) through supply chains, ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and accelerate the transformation of our economies.

The conversation focused on specific ways to meaningfully integrate biodiversity considerations into strategic decision making and the challenges introduced by the broader politicisation of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards.

“It's not just about nature and climate,” said Gough, who frequently collaborates with representatives from business, government and the general public. “We have to put people at the heart of it. People are central to the solutions to secure equitable outcomes.”

“Once you start thinking about using capitals, you realise that you’ve not only got an impact, but a dependency as well. This is a real lightbulb moment for many senior business leaders. It changes the dialogue in a way that you have to think about nature and society first thing on a Monday morning, then in every decision you make through the week. You can’t approach the issue as a side-CSR project; it becomes part of the core business.”

Gough detailed several factors which contribute to the challenges involved in moving ‘capitals thinking’ from ideology to actuality, all of which need to be underpinned by the fact that economic systems, to date, have not assigned value to the resources and systems upon which humanity depends.

A lack of good data and materiality metrics; poor economic policy support; and business resources already being too thinly spread to justify a standalone, internal project are among the other principal challenges he and his team faces.

Gough added that corporates can be adverse to investing in work which “exposes holes in their business models and mess in their back yards”.

The discussion between Mark Gough and Dr. Ioannou can be viewed here, COP15: Challenges and Opportunities in Mobilising the Private Sector.