(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Only 5 companies per 100 pay attention to the environmental impacts of their activities. The index of the World Benchmarking Alliance’s (WBA) has cataloged almost 400, most of them in low positions due to a lack of interest in the consequences of their activities on the nature and human rights of the local and indigenous communities of the territories on which they operate.
Among the companies that have gained negative ratings are some of the most influential brands in the world such as Rio Tinto, Bayer, Kering, Vale and Novartis. The index will be presented these days in Montreal, during the COP15 for biodiversity.
Vicky Sins, World Benchmarking Alliance’s Nature Transformation Lead, said: “We cannot achieve a zero-carbon future without protecting the natural world and its communities. The first urgent step for companies is to make a thorough assessment of nature. Without understanding their relationship to nature and how operations harm or help biodiversity, how can businesses understand what to do? Companies must measure and report on how they interact with nature – including how their activities affect deforestation, pollution and nature loss“.
The environmental impacts of business activities
The index focuses on the policies and activities of companies engaged in eight sectors critical to potential environmental impacts: metals and mines; construction and engineering; construction materials and supplies; containers and packaging; pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; tyres and rubber; clothing and footwear; chemicals.
In most cases, business value chains are responsible for the loss of biodiversity, but in reality, only 5% of mapped companies make scientific assessments of their environmental impacts. Moreover, although 50% of companies say they want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, 97% have not yet defined their strategy to achieve the 2030 climate targets. Finally, only 1% are aware of how much their activities are dependent on the state of health of the Planet and the need to stop the loss of biodiversity.
The impact of business activities on human rights
One way to mitigate the environmental impacts of business activities could be to work on the involvement and engagement of knowledge and skills of local communities and indigenous peoples who often inhabit the territories on which the projects of the large companies, maximise practices that have already ensured the protection of ecosystems.
From this point of view too, however, there is no good news.
Only 13% of companies have made clear commitments to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Only 5% is committed to respecting the right of communities to free, informed and prior consent with respect to the start of operations. Only 2% have adopted intervention policies to prevent the violent outcomes of persecution of activists and defenders of human rights and territory.
More commitment from business and clear direction from policymakers needed
In light of the data elaborated in the report, WBA urges companies to have greater transparency about the environmental impacts of their activities, especially regarding the loss of biodiversity and the disappearance of endangered species. Only 14% of the companies monitored state clearly if they work near areas of high ecological value or biodiversity hotspots, and only 7% know, track and list the endangered species that live near the places where they operate.
The call is to improve these performances, by combating, for example, deforestation or protecting wetlands: activities in which less than 5% of the cases studied are engaged.
Among the environmental impacts of business activities there are certainly the production of waste and the dispersion of air and water pollutants, but only 29% of the 389 companies questioned are committed to reducing the use of plastic and waste production.
While more effort is needed from business people, this cannot be voluntary. The WBA appeal is addressed to political decision-makers, asking them to impose mechanisms on companies to monitor and evaluate their environmental and human rights impacts, and to make public the results of these examinations.
An appeal that is part of the Business for Nature campaign “Make it Mandatory” and has been spread in these days since today the COP15 for biodiversity in Montreal begins
“A crucial objective of the COP15 – said Sins – is to reach a “Paris Agreement for nature”, but the protection of nature is not feasible without the vital role of the private sector. We need to make it clear to all companies that their success is closely linked to their relationship with the natural world around them – on which many of them rely. Businesses are set to face increasing responsibility on nature – which will have a strong positive impact. Some of the companies with the best results in the benchmark, such as mining companies, are those most under scrutiny”.