UNEP Body Leads European Effort to Standardise Biodiversity Metrics

Backed by European Commission funding, the Align project will accelerate the evolution of natural capital accounting approaches.

A group headed by the United Nation’s Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has been launched to standardise biodiversity metrics in an effort to better incorporate the value of nature into the private sector.

The Align project, launched yesterday, is funded by the European Commission and will be managed by the Capitals Coalition, Arcadis, ICF and WCMC Europe.

Over the next three years, the groups leading the project will work with businesses, financial institutions and existing nature-focused organisations to develop a harmonised set of methods, indicators and criteria for corporate biodiversity measurement tools and approaches.

Speaking at a webinar for the official launch, Katie Leach, Senior Programme Officer at UNEP-WCMC, explained that the Align project will produce sector-specific guidance for site-based, value chain and finance sector companies to measure corporate impacts and dependencies on biodiversity.

“There is need for an alignment of existing approaches to measuring and reporting biodiversity in order to better support businesses and financial institutions. Through the Align project, we aim to improve clarity and build consensus on how businesses and financial institutions can measure and report on performance,” said Leach.

The initiative is a response to calls by stakeholders and international policymakers for increased transparency around biodiversity metrics and cohesion between existing nature-focused reporting initiatives, such as the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), the Transparent Project and the initial guidance for companies on Science-Based Targets for Nature.

This project will not make legislative recommendations, Leach added, but will provide guidance from which policymakers could introduce mandatory legislation in the future.

“We want to ensure that what we do here is guided by what businesses need,” she said. “It will complement existing policies within the European Commission and will be open to being influenced by these, but it’s not going to directly adjust specific legislation.”

The geographical focus of the project will be within the EU, but panellists at the launch revealed the long-term goal of the Align initiative is to link to global business and policy initiatives.

The growing investor focus on biodiversity risks was further increased recently with the publication of the Dasgupta report, commissioned by the UK government, which made recommendations to public and private sector actors.

In May 2021, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity will be held in Kunming, China, which will be an opportunity to policymakers to come together and form a biodiversity-focused framework. This should also present investors with the opportunity to get involved in shaping future legislation.

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