The nature-positive supply chain!

There is a lot of information circulating in the media about the environment, climate change, sustainability, pollution, nature conservation and more. It cannot be overemphasized how important these issues are for our present and our future.

But one phrase that caught my eye recently from the World Economic Forum (WEF) was the “nature positive economy”. That sounded like a phrase that would pique the interest of environmentalists and businesspeople alike.

What did they mean by a “nature positive economy”? And since nothing can happen without a leading and supportive supply chain, what is a “nature positive supply chain” more broadly?

The nature positive economy

According to the World Economic Forum, our dependence on nature is far greater than previously thought, with an economic value of $44 trillion, or more than half of the world’s GDP, that depends on nature. The construction, agriculture and food and beverage industries are most dependent on nature.

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

This risk is very real, especially considering that “approximately 25% of our assessed plant and animal species are threatened by human intervention, with one million species threatened with extinction”. If left unaddressed, these impacts on nature and our climate will dramatically and negatively impact the global economy and the way we live.

For example, think of plastic in the ocean. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! In addition, billions of pounds of textiles are wasted in the clothing industry every year and end up in landfills. That’s incredible. These are clearly end-to-end supply chain management glitches that impact nature and our environment.

A lack of focus by businesses and governments on managing the impacts on nature will result in further and irreversible degradation of nature and our biodiversity, and therefore 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 includes:

  • Up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction due to human activities
  • Unprecedented wildfires have killed billions of animals
  • 60% decline in vertebrate 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

The growing world population will continue to serve to further burden the impacts of industries and the world economy on nature and the environment. Feeding and supporting a way of life for billions more people in the coming decades will certainly affect nature and our environment faster than the effects we are seeing today.

What’s next?

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

By putting the problem of the impact of nature loss in economic terms, the World Economic Forum appeals to what motivates corporations and governments: economic health and prosperity.

As has been said, the self-sustainability of businesses and economies depends on the continued integrity of our natural environment. However, the current state of how many industries do business threatens the environment and, in turn, the economies on which their success depends.

All of this means that businesses and governments must take the necessary steps to address and correct the current reality. Active risk management and mitigation, including natural impacts, is essential. For example, reducing food waste alone could solve the world’s hunger problem while improving the more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources used in agriculture.

This must include the active management of highly visible metrics and measures related to natural impacts in most industries. This must also include all levels of the extended supply chains for all companies, not just a company’s internal operations. As noted by the WEF, many industries have a greater impact on nature through their extended supply chains than through their immediate operations.

Improved governance and accountability, both self-directed and government regulated, must also be an important part of any company’s Nature Positive Economic strategy. This governance should be exercised by all stakeholders for each organization, including representation at the government level.

Supply chain leaders need to be at the epicenter of this change. They must seek to strategically design greener and more sustainable supply chains and drive the implementation of these processes, resources, tools and techniques.

This focus on an environmentally friendly supply chain must encompass every aspect of the supply chain business process, including design, sourcing, supplier management, manufacturing, transportation, logistics, distribution, ensuring continuity of supply, quality management, reverse logistics (e.g. returns, repairs). , recycling), 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-conscious economy. All of this requires the design, implementation and management of Nature Positive Supply Chains around the world.

Originally published May 18, 2021.

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