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Review of the European Business & Nature Summit

By November 15, 2023 March 26th, 2024 No Comments

On October 11th and 12th, Daan attended the European Business & Nature Summit (EBNS) in Milan. Although there is still a lot to be accomplished before biodiversity is integrally embedded into the business processes of global companies, Daan signalled that the business community is increasingly aware of the value of nature and importance of healthy ecosystems. But there is also much still to be done.

Some hopeful observations from the first day of the European Business and Nature Summit.

After years of anticipation, we finally seem ready for implementation. Although action is long overdue, there finally seems to be a belief among private sector actors that we know enough to get to implementation beyond pilots and CSR driven projects. With all the guidelines, frameworks, standards and case studies that have been published since the first B@B platform meeting I attended back in 2014, no one can hide anymore. And we have to have something to show for before CBD COP16 this time next year.

Another remarkable and hopeful observation is that an appetite for more regulation is coming up across different actors: private sector, governments, financial sector and NGOs alike. A sign that indicates we are in fact ready to mainstream from front runners to the peloton.

Third, I was very pleased to witness more attention to the role of SMEs and the mechanisms through which they can be enabled to take part in this transition. Again hopeful, although a lot of work still needs to be done, such as providing them with clear and company size/sector specific roadmaps.

Also, it was fantastic to hear the observations from illycaffè president and Regenerative Society Foundation co-chair Andrea Illy on what sustainability and regenerations means. A heartfelt and convincing plea to understand sustainability as the ability to perpetually benefit from the ecosystem services that nature is providing us. His call to take payments for ecosystem services as a core approach rather than opt for biodiversity credits that serve as an offsetting scheme is a good reminder that we can learn from the climate movement in different ways.

After two days, the European Business & Nature Summit has come to a close. First of all, great how this moving theater can catalyze action among new stakeholders by picking a new location each year. A nice example of how networking can have very real outcomes.

Yesterday, I already covered the main topics and how that could give is hope. Today, I like to focus on two things that seem to be missing from the discussion still.

As indicated, there is more appetite for regulation, but we do need it sooner rather than later. We simply don’t have the time to experiment another 7 years with voluntary approaches before moving forward to making it mandatory. This is in no way meant to criticize the voluntary approaches that are being developed, but a call to be less modest and, to speak with the words of Johan LAMMERANT less kind to those who don’t want or dare to come along. We have to face the dragon right into the eyes, accept the uncomfortable but unavoidable truth, and do the best we can with all we already have. The policy toolbox as illustrated by Mario Nava consisting of regulation, positive financial incentives and technical support, needs to be put to use simultaneously and we have to do it mid-air. All the reasons to postpone (not now because of… inflation, increased energy costs, armed conflict), will only make it worse in the long run and precisely lead to those things we want to avoid. On the bright side, we have to start believing and communicating that this transition brings us to a much more desirable future. It shouldn’t be about the fear of losing, we have a future to win. Or to repeat last years words by André Hoffmann: the future is sustainable or there is no future at all.

On a completely other topic, also some good discussions about data availability and the need for location data specific data. It may get a bit technical, but I like to also draw attention to achieving data granularity when it comes to different practices. This is essential to prevent wholesale exclusion of sectors and geographies. Rather, reward those who are making the necessary changes and punish those who aren’t. This is also essential to safeguard the livelihoods of local communities in vulnerable regions.