The Nature Positive Supply Chain!

Nature Positive

There is a lot of information floating around in the media about the environment, climate change, sustainability, pollution, nature preservation and more. It cannot be understated how important these topics are to our present and to our future.

But a phrase that recently caught my attention from the World Economic Forum (WEF) was the “Nature Positive Economy”. That sounded like phrasing that would capture the interest of environmentalists and business people alike.

What did they mean by a “Nature Positive Economy”? And given that nothing can happen without a leading and supportive Supply Chain, by extension what is a “Nature Positive Supply Chain”?

The Nature Positive Economy

According to the World Economic Forum our dependence on nature is much greater than previously thought with $44 Trillion of economic value, or over half the world’s GDP, dependent on nature. The Construction, Agriculture, and Food & Beverages industries are the most dependent on nature.

The risk of extended Supply Chain disruption due to impacts to nature is significantly impacted in these industries: chemicals and materials; aviation, travel and tourism; real estate; mining and metals; supply chain and transport; and retail, consumer goods and lifestyle. For these industries “over 50% of their supply chains’ GVA (gross value added) is highly or moderately nature-dependent” even though the direct and immediate GVA of companies in these industries is lower.

This risk is very real, especially when you consider that “about 25% of our assessed plant and animal species are threatened by human actions, with a million species facing extinction.” Unaddressed these impacts to nature and our climate will dramatically, and negatively impact world economies and our way of life.

Think about plastics in the Ocean for instance. It is forecast that by the year 2050 there will be more plastics in the Ocean than fish! Additionally in the Clothing industry billions of pounds of textiles are wasted and go into landfills every year. That’s incredible. Clearly these are breakdowns in end to end Supply Chain Management which impact on nature and our environment.

A lack of business and government focus on managing impacts to nature will result in further, and irreversible, degradation to nature and to our biodiversity, and by extension to the global economy.

The facts supporting the need to improve our focus on nature come from another World Economic forum article “Why 2020 is the year to reset humanity’s relationship with nature” and include:

  • Up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction due to human activity
  • Unprecedented forest fires have destroyed billions of animals
  • 60% decline in vertebrate species population since 1970
  • We have lost 1/2 of the world’s coral reefs and 1/3 of all wetlands
  • Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise

Growing global populations will, unabated, only serve to further strain the impacts of industries and world economies on nature and the environment. Feeding and supporting a way of life for billions more people in the decades to come will surely impact nature and our environment in an accelerated way far beyond the impacts that we are seeing today.

Human activity is eroding the world's foundations

What’s Next?

The science and facts prove that action must be taken in order to reverse our impact on nature, positively impact climate change and create a sustainable environment.

By framing the problem of the impacts on nature loss in economic terms the World Economic Forum is appealing to what motivates businesses and governments: economic health and prosperity.

Self preservation of businesses and economies is, as stated, dependent on the ongoing integrity of our natural environment. However the current state of how many industries conduct business is threatening the very environment, and in turn the economies, that their success depends on.

All of this means that businesses and governments have to take the necessary steps to address and correct the present reality. Active risk management and mitigation, inclusive of nature related impacts, is essential. For instance food waste reduction alone could solve the world’s hunger problem while at the same time improving the more efficient and sustainable use of nature’s resources consumed in agriculture.

This must include the active management of highly visible metrics and measures associated with nature impacts in most industries. This must also include all levels of the extended Supply Chains for all companies, not just a company’s in house operations. As mentioned previously by the WEF many industries have a greater impact on nature through their extended Supply Chains as opposed to their immediate, line of site, operations.

Enhanced governance and accountability, both self-directed and government regulated, also need to be a key part of a Nature Positive Economic strategy for every company. This governance should be exercised by all stakeholders for any organization, including government level representation.

Supply Chain leaders must be at the epicentre of this change. They must look to strategically design more nature friendly sustainable Supply Chains and drive the implementation of those processes, resources, tools and techniques.

This focus on a Nature Positive Supply Chain must include every aspect of the Supply Chain business process including design, sourcing, supplier management, manufacturing, transportation, logistics, distribution, continuity of supply assurance, quality management, reverse logistics (eg, returns, repair, recycle), disaster recovery and risk management.

Earth is our only habitable planet. We owe it to our descendants to create a sustainable environment and a Nature Positive Economy. All of this requires the design, implementation and management of Nature Positive Supply Chains all around the world.

Originally published on May 18, 2021.