Over half of the world's economy relies on biodiversity -- the complete range of plants, animals and bacteria that naturally occur in a geography -- but industrialization has put that biodiversity at risk.
That's the word from numerous government reports and even data from the insurance industry, but governments and businesses aren't doing enough to protect the whole array of natural resources that go into a system, according to a Global Reporting Initiative study.
While the United Nations has set a goal for the world of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 -- a target that was reaffirmed at the last COP26 conference -- neither businesses are governments are doing enough.
In many cases, according to the GRI, they don't even understand the scope of the problem.
And it is a problem. Global insurance giant SwissRe, which paid out over $112 billion in damages related to climate catastrophes and natural disasters in 2021, estimated that $47 trillion dollars of global productivity is potentially at risk.
This financial accounting doesn't even begin to address the toll in human lives, starvation and poverty that's at stake.
To understand how these things need to change, the GRI is calling for governments and businesses to begin setting standards on reporting and accounting for biodiversity impact in corporate operations.
The GRI has one standard, so does the Partnership for Biodiversity Accounting Financials. Several other industry organizations are promoting their own approach to biodiversity accounting.
The point, according to GRI's director of standards, Harold Pauwels, is that companies need to do something.
"Given the gravity of the situation, the private sector cannot afford to stand back," Pauwels wrote in an opinion piece sent to FootPrint Coalition. "To have a chance of meeting the 2030 deadline requires that action from all organizations, including improved management and disclosure of their biodiversity impacts, so all companies and stakeholders can make informed assessments in support of sustainable development."
Accounting is at the heart of accountability, according to Pauwels -- and it presents the cornerstone of any strategy needed to address biodiversity loss.
"Holding organizations accountable for their impacts is crucial to break the chain of events on both biodiversity loss and climate change – for which transparency is the underpinning enabler," he wrote. "Not only will high quality disclosures lead to better assessment by companies, it will also inform improved decision making by stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and investors."