French Companies Integrate Biodiversity Impact Assessment

One of the world's most endangered species is the addax (Addax nasomaculatus), also known as the screwhorn antelope, is an antelope of the genus Addax, that lives in the Sahara desert. It was first described by Henri Blainville, a French zoologist and anatomist, in 1816. June 28, 2012 (Photo by vivtony00)


PARIS, France, October 27, 2020 (ENS) – A tool that will allow investors to measure how their investments impact biodiversity – the diversity of plants and animals – is one step closer to completion now that a consortium of some of France’s largest investors have selected the Iceberg Data Lab based in Paris and the French environmental consulting company I Care & Consult as the developers of the tool.

The investors’ group includes AXA Investment Managers and BNP Paribas Asset Management, Sycomore Asset Management, and Mirova – all based in France, and all sustainable finance providers.

In a joint statement, the four investors said, “This tender process has been a collaborative experience and we thank all the bidders for their huge involvement. Bringing together the data modeling skills of Iceberg Data Lab with the deep expertise on biodiversity and methodology build-up of I Care & Consult, their innovative approach have convinced us unanimously. We are eager to report to our stakeholders on the biodiversity impacts of our portfolios and progressively integrate them into our assessment and investment processes.”

“We unanimously decided to select the innovative approach that combines the data modeling skills of Iceberg Data Lab and the in-depth expertise on biodiversity and methodology build-up of I Care & Consult,” said Julien Foll of AXA IM, Robert-Alexandre Poujade of BNPP AM, Sarah Maillard of Mirova and Jean-Guillaume Péladan of Sycomore AM.

Understanding and identifying a company’s biodiversity footprint requires knowledge of all the impacts of the company’s activities throughout its value chain – impacts on sites or impacts related to products, inputs used in production processes, and the use and end-of-life phases of products.

Even with all that knowledge, many challenges remain to capture nature’s complexity into manageable metrics and to integrate the latest science into investment decision making.

One of the world’s most endangered species is the addax, Addax nasomaculatus, also known as the screwhorn antelope, that lives in the Sahara desert. It was first described by French zoologist Henri Blainville in 1816. This photo was taken on June 28, 2012 (Photo by vivtony00)

The sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is underway at an unprecedented pace, according to the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2019, cited by the Government of France in its Corporate Social Responsibility platform.

For the first time in the World Economic Forum survey’s 10 year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental, including major biodiversity loss, found in the Global Risks Report 2020.

The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an “alarming” average drop of 68 percent since 1970, as recently assessed by the WWF in its “Living Planet Report 2020.” The World Economic Forum calculates that this crisis threatens half of global GDP, whereas positive pathways are estimated to bring US$10 trillion in business value and create 395 million jobs.

Biodiversity loss threatens the achievement of 80 percent of Sustainable Development Goals sub-targets related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land said the IPBES 2019 report.

The investors recognize that “much more needs to be done to promote corporate transparency on nature-related dependencies and impacts.”

This contract was supported by an Investor Statement on the need for biodiversity impact metrics, which gathered more than 30 signatures from leading institutional investors around the world, representing over EUR 6.000 billion in assets under management.

Matthieu Maurin, CEO of Iceberg Data Lab, and Guillaume Neveux, CEO of I Care & Consult, said, “We are honored that our innovative solution, the ‘Corporate Biodiversity Footprint,’ has been selected in this highly competitive international process. We look forward to cooperating with the investor consortium and with all financial actors interested in their strategy to preserve and restore natural capital.”

The statement demonstrates that there is currently an unmet demand for quality research to assist investors in responding to the biodiversity crisis.

Calculating the Corporate Biodiversity Footprint

The tool will be built on the Corporate Biodiversity Footprint, a database that aims to quantify the biodiversity impact of financial portfolios. This tool will enable financial institutions to integrate that impact into their investment strategies.

Critically endangered Chinese giant salamanders for sale in a restaurant in Hongqiao Town in Zhejiang, China, 2013, (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

On its Corporate Biodiversity Footprint website, the French Government warns that 18 percent of the species on the French national Red Data List are extinct or threatened in France as of February 1, 2019. At least 22 percent of common specialist birds have disappeared from metropolitan France between 1989 and 2017.

Globally, 40 percent of the world’s amphibian species are threatened.

The government has identified the five factors in the decline of biodiversity: climate change, changes in land use, overexploitation of resources, pollution and invasive alien species.

In 2008, France began special diplomacy on the biodiversity issue, with a Special Representative for Bioethics and Corporate Social Responsibility, a position currently held by Geneviève Jean-Van Rossum. Her primary role is to actively participate in these negotiations.

Iceberg Data Lab and I Care & Consult have joined forces to expand the Corporate Biodiversity Footprint, metric quantifying the impact on biodiversity of corporations across their activities. The tool being expanded will help investors to integrate impacts on nature and biodiversity into their risk assessments and research.

The transparency of this approach is expected to contribute to the required convergence towards more standard and comparable metrics. This should serve as an important catalyst for private-sector action, with ripple effects through the economies that utilize it.

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