After COP15: Will Biodiversity be Back in Business?

Everything we value and depend on in life depends on nature: a stable climate, food, security, health, economy, culture and livelihoods. Halting and reversing nature loss is therefore also a critical business issue. An assessment of the CBD COP15 outcome.


Nature loss is a significant risk to our global economy and to business. But addressing this risk can provide business opportunities. The new Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at COP15 now sends a strong signal to businesses all over the world. adelphi-expert Jan Christian Polanía Giese was at CBD COP15 in Montreal to host two sessions on biodiversity and consumption and to discuss solutions to the biodiversity crisis together with representatives of the business community. At COP15, he also presented the Biodiversity Communication Toolkit, which was developed by adelphi and Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) together with an international working group. Here are his main assessments of the outcome.


Target 15 specifies that states should take measures „…to encourage and enable business, and in particular to ensure that large and transnational companies and financial institutions: Regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity…”. The good news: This is a rather strict clause, even though the word “mandatory” has been deleted from it during the negotiations. It requires companies to report their dependencies and impacts on biodiversity, and also to disclose relevant information to consumers.

After intense negotiations delegates agreed to not include small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) due to their assumed lack of resources and capacity. This is a missed opportunity, not only because they are relevant but also because those types of companies will lack the transparency on their dependencies which could make them less resilient. Instead of excluding them these should have been granted support so that they can build the capacities and resources necessary to also report and disclose.

The general downside is that monitoring, assessing and disclosing does not by itself reduce negative impacts on biodiversity. Including wording on goals such as “halving the impact on biodiversity”, which was included in the draft, by a certain time (the 2030 horizon is also missing) would have been important to provide some guidance for target setting and action.

adelphi Senior Manager Jan Christian Polanía Giese at CBD COP 15


Target 16 asks states to “Ensure that people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices including by establishing supportive policy, legislative or regulatory frameworks, improving education and access to relevant and accurate information and alternatives…”. This clause also addresses consumers directly, which acknowledges their role. Under the right framework conditions, created by the private sector and politics, consumers are an important part of the solution to the great crisis of nature.

The clause stipulates that by 2030 we should halve global food waste, significantly reduce overconsumption and substantially reduce waste generation “…in order for all people to live well in harmony with Mother Earth.” It is positive that overconsumption is specifically mentioned and pointed out as a major issue, however it lacks a clear target. Only the reference to food waste sets a relative target and reiterates Target 12.3 of the SDGs.

Make it Mandatory

Overall, the final outcome comes relatively close to the calls of the “Make it Mandatory” campaign by Business For Nature (BfN), a global coalition of businesses and conservation groups. The campaign demanded an ambitious Target 15 that makes disclosure of businesses’ dependencies and impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services mandatory by 2030. adelphi contributed to a joint report issued by BfN and other organisations such as the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which reemphasized these demands. The main element of the paper was presented by Eva Zabey of BfN during the High-Level Segment to the negotiators and the full paper will be included in the official report of the High-Level Segment.