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Judy Kuszewski, chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB). Photo: GRI.
Judy Kuszewski, chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB). Photo: GRI.

Agreement to establish a global standard on biodiversity is sought

A process is underway that seeks to offer best practices for the transparency of environmental impacts.

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A reporting standard has been made available to the specialized community that seeks to unlock accountability for the impacts organizations have on the environment, thus offering a global response to the deepening environmental crisis.

A public comment period is currently underway for the exposure draft of the revised GRI Biodiversity Standard, with diverse input being sought so that the final standard offers best practices of this type.

Judy Kuszewski, chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) — which is responsible for setting the GRI Standards, noted:

It is abundantly clear that biodiversity is under siege, with human activity the leading cause. The affects of biodiversity loss are directly undermining the sustainable development agenda and, if it continues unabated, will have disastrous consequences – on the environment, the economy and people.

COP15

The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (COP15) aims to establish a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The previous one resulted in only six of the 20 targets being partially met by the 2020 deadline, reinforcing the scale of the challenge.

The recently published KPMG Sustainability Reporting Survey (October 2022) revealed that while the disclosure used in the GRI Standards is widespread, only 40% of the world's leading 5,800 companies currently report on biodiversity.

In the framework of COP15, which begins in Montreal on December 7, where countries will negotiate a new action plan on biodiversity, the Intergovernmental Platform for Science and Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has warned that biodiversity is declining in all regions of the world.

Taking this complicated panorama into account, the text of the GRI Biodiversity Standard seeks to enable companies to assess, disclose and reduce their impacts on biodiversity.

Among the proposed changes, the following stand out:

  • Reflect reporting throughout the supply chain, given many biodiversity impacts are found beyond the scope of a company’s own operations.
  • Help organizations prioritize attention on their most significant impacts, recognizing the challenge of scale in addressing biodiversity impacts.
  • Add new disclosures to connect with the drivers of biodiversity loss, including climate change, pollution, and overexploitation of resources.
  • Introduce requirements for biodiversity-related human rights impacts, such as those on indigenous peoples, local communities and workers.
  • Emphasize location-specific data, to ensure businesses are transparent about the sites where their biodiversity impacts take place.

“Against this backdrop, and on the eve of the UN Biodiversity COP, I’m pleased that our proposal for a major update to the GRI Biodiversity Topic Standard is available for public comment. The revision process has seen an unprecedented level of collaboration with leading experts, so that the final Standard can provide the internationally accepted best practice for transparency on biodiversity impacts. I encourage all stakeholders and interested parties to participate in this consultation, because we need a standard that will be the global focal point for accountability on biodiversity impacts. Improved reporting – across sectors, regions and supply chains – is crucial for addressing information gaps and informing global solutions,” added Kuszewski.

The exposure draft is open for public comment until February 28, 2023, after which comments submitted will be considered before the expected publication date for the final Standard in the second half of next year.

On December 15, webinars will be held where interested parties can learn more about what is included in the draft Standard. Places can be reserved by clicking here.

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