Reflections on the European Business & Nature Summit

Sustainable Development Goal(s): 3. Good health6. Clean water and sanitation7. Affordable and clean energy8. Decent work and economic growth11. Sustainable cities and communities12. Responsible consumption and production13. Climate action14. Life below water15. Life on land17. Partnerships for the goals

Priorities for change: Biodiversity
Reflections on the European Business & Nature Summit

The European Business & Nature Summit took place on December 8 and 9. Two days of online discussions that brought together pioneering companies in the field of biodiversity, but also numerous interventions from public actors or civil society.

What is the EBNS?

On December 8 and 9, the European Business & Nature Summit took place, a large-scale annual event that aims to strengthen the movement of companies that put nature and people at the centre of their recovery strategies, in Belgium, Europe and the world. For this 2020 edition, the European Commission's EU B@B platform joined forces with the Belgian Federal Government and the Government of the Flemish Region, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and The Shift, to offer you two days of stimulating discussions, knowledge exchange and networking opportunities, all online. More than 700 people joined the many thematic sessions.

The EBNS serves each year as a springboard to strengthen the growing movement of companies who see nature as part of the solution to economic well-being. It highlights how business can support the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and helps to keep this topic high on the political agenda ahead of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in 2021, which is expected to deliver an ambitious framework for global biodiversity beyond 2020.

This year, many of our members were present, both as speakers and participants. We were pleased to welcome Sue Garfitt, CEO Alpro, Thomas van Craen, Managing Director Triodos Bank Belgium, Thierry Noesen, CEO Belvas, Johan Lammerant, Lead Expert Natural Capital and Biodiversity Arcadis, Cristianne Close, Global leader Markets Practice WWF, Begijn Le Bleu, Communication Manager at Corridor but also Sofie Defour, Young Change Maker The Shift, alongside Emmanuel Faber, CEO Danone, for the opening session. 

What do we take away from this event?

  • Biodiversity and climate are inseparable

"We humans weigh too much. I am not speaking here from a medical perspective. I'm talking about our total mass as a species." This is how Sofie Defour, Young Change Maker The Shift, began her opening speech, aiming to challenge the companies present at the event. She agreed with the messages of Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, calling on companies to integrate nature into the heart of their strategy and use it as a compass for their decision making. Sofie called on companies to adopt a more holistic approach to climate and biodiversity and not to cherry-pick on these issues: "everyone knows that if you set up a table with only two legs, it will collapse as soon as you lean on it", a message that also echoed the words of Emmanuel Faber, reminding that "biodiversity and climate are a problem for each other, and a solution for each other". They must therefore be tackled together.

 

  • We're not there yet…

In the following session, several companies that had decided to put nature at the centre of their activity shared their experience. Sue Garfitt, CEO of Alpro, modestly reminds us that despite all their efforts, - in the original language -: "I don't think we'll ever be quite done". In short, a long road ahead, already taken by many companies, with the help of increasingly precise and efficient tools, although still relatively unsuitable for smaller companies. There is still the same obstacle: measuring the impact. Nature is priceless, and yet we will have to be able to calculate its value if we want to integrate it sufficiently into our capitalist system. Many experts have been working on the development of measurement tools for years, and some of them have already proved their worth.

This is one of the tasks that the European Business@Biodiversity platform also wishes to accomplish: to provide companies with the tools they need to integrate nature into their business model, regardless of their size or available resources. And this is one of the reasons why this summit is taking place.

 

  • We need the financial sector

The second day kicked off with two sessions devoted to the engagement of the financial sector. First of all, the European platform celebrated the 11 new signatories of the Finance for Biodiversity pledge, a commitment made by 37 financial sector actors who are committed to protecting and restoring biodiversity through their financing activities and investments.

Thomas van Craen, Managing Director of Triodos Belgium, reminds us of the importance, as a financial institution, of looking in the mirror and measuring its impacts on biodiversity through its financing activities. He also brings an interesting perspective: biodiversity loss is often mentioned as a risk for a bank, but the bank can also be seen as a risk for biodiversity. Each financing of this or that activity is a lever to increase the positive impacts we have, or reduce the negative impacts.  

 

  • SMEs in the spotlight

The third session of the second day deals with the subject of SMEs and how partnership projects allow them to join the movement of companies that integrate nature into their strategy. This session was organised by the Belgian actors of the summit, and moderated by The Shift, for whom it was a pleasure to give the floor to so many of its members. After the presentation of the Belvas case by Thierry Noesen, CEO of the company, and FollowFood's case on what an SME can do at the level of its value chain, we also discovered two concrete partnerships that federate a community of actors around common ambitions: the Green Deal Bedrijven en Biodiversiteit, and the Beyond Chocolate programme led by IDH.

The session ended with an invitation from Majda Dabaghi, Director Inclusive & Green Growth, to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), calling on SMEs to join the SME Climate Hub recently created by the ICC, in partnership with its local offices around the world and other international organisations.

Engaging SMEs in the fight against biodiversity loss is also one of the priorities of the European platform Business@Biodiversity, which recently launched a survey to better understand their needs. The interim results of the survey were also presented at this session, and will be published in full in early 2021.

Want to go further?

These two days were filled with information and exchanges which are now accessible to all via the event's website. You can therefore listen to each intervention and consult the presentations that were given.

 

If you want to go further, we invite you to: