Story | 04 Sep, 2021

Global business leaders outline efforts to build a nature-positive future at IUCN CEO Summit

Marseille, France (IUCN) – More than a dozen leading global businesses – from fashion and food to energy and transport – unveiled their efforts to address biodiversity loss and climate change in the first-ever CEO Summit at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

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Photo: C.Almodovar/EpE

Business leaders, representing companies totaling more than US $1 trillion in market capital and $655 billion in annual turnover, underscored the business case for taking action to reduce their environmental impact, agreeing that more transformative partnerships are urgently needed to achieve a nature-positive future.

Addressing the Summit, IUCN’s Director General Dr Bruno Oberle warned that the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss should cause everyone in business and society at large to “reflect” on these impacts, stressing that business was crucial to driving the changes required to tackle these dual crises, which threaten the goal to provide a “decent life” and sustainable future for all.   

“To achieve the developmental goals, we need to transform our society, use different products and services, create different types of infrastructure, and invest differently. And this is something that business is already used to – this is the reason why you are so important in this transition,” said Dr Oberle.

The CEO Summit participants, which included IUCN Members and other partners, explained how safeguarding nature throughout value chains and in partnership with others was critical, as was developing new business models, policies and partnerships to help business achieve its commitments and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.   

“We need transformative partnerships for impact and scale,” said Paul Polman, an influencer business leader and campaigner, who is also the Honorary Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce.  Recognising the important commitments from business, he challenged them whether this was sufficient and urged them to do more. “We are stealing from future generations,” he said. 

Company representatives speaking at the CEO Summit included:  EDF, ENGIE, Group CMA CGM, IkTaar Sustainability, Kering, L’Occitane, LVMH, Nestlé, Pernod Ricard, Shell, TotalEnergies and Veolia.

Other participants included:  Ministers Barbara Pompili from France and Nancy Tembo from Malawi; NGOs – the OP2B Coalition, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Rights and Resources Group, The Nature Conservancy and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); the Global Environment Facility and the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF), the county’s largest employer federation.

The Chair and CEO of Pernod Ricard, Alexandre Ricard, announced its support as the first company to back IUCN’s Agriculture and Land Health Initiative, which builds on the company’s own regenerative agriculture programme.  

“All our products are closely connected with nature – they take their character, their identity and their quality from the terroirs, where they are grown. Biodiversity is an essential element to the equilibrium of these ecosystems,” said Mr Ricard.  Watch his video statement here.

“Protecting natural ecosystems has always been an essential priority for LVMH, whose activities depend largely on natural raw materials, from flowers, grapes and cotton to leather and precious gemstones,” said Antoine Arnault, LVMH Image and Environment. In addition, he said the Group is supporting the rehabilitation of five million hectares of wildlife habitat around the world.

Kering’s Chief Sustainability Director Marie-Claire Devaud highlighted their recently launched Regenerative Fund for Nature with Conservation International, which aims to apply regenerative practices in 1 million hectares of land used in their supply chains.  

L’OCCITANE Group highlighted its 3-year, US $2 million public–private partnership programme RESIST in Burkina Faso: an example of the synergies that can be achieved by developing the local economy while also protecting biodiversity.

 "Partnerships and collaboration are essential: that's why we are so invested in coalitions such as OP2B. We can't let nature down, we can't let ourselves down.  So let's scale collaboration up,” said Adrien Geiger, Group Sustainability Officer and International Director of L’OCCITANE en Provence.

To support greater diversity in green careers, SFI, an IUCN Member, announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

“This MOU is an important step in SFI’s commitment to providing all young people with opportunities to advance their skills, networks and careers, so they can contribute to nature-based solutions in the forest and conservation sector,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI.

In addition, Holcim, a leader in building materials and solutions, launched their new nature strategy at the Summit. Read more here.

A recording of the full CEO Summit will be available soon.

The Summit proceeded the official opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, taking place from 3-11 September 2021. Uniquely, this Congress is being held in-person and virtually, and includes a strong business presence. 

For more information:

See the IUCN CEO Summit programme here.