EPD Australasia

Building biodiversity into product declarations

EPD Australasia occasionally invites interesting perspectives from people and organisations to explore the future of EPDs, read on for a perspective on including biodiversity into EPDs by Guy Williams, from The Biodiversity Consultancy.

Considering biodiversity impacts and dependencies as part of your EPD is useful for managing new and emerging risks, and presents an opportunity to promote brand identity, support stakeholder engagement, and align with societal goals for climate, oceans and biodiversity.

The world has woken up in the past 18 months to a nature crisis as large as the climate emergency. Nature is in the spotlight due to the emergence of novel diseases linked to the destruction of natural ecosystems. The current Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the domino effect triggered when one element in the system is destabilised, and has led to the call for a “Great reset” and the need for all of society to re-examine our relationship with nature.

Three factors are combining to increase the risks and exposure that products are currently experiencing:

1. Biodiversity, the building blocks of life on this planet, is disintegrating through the loss of species and habitat. E.g., some experts estimate that a mere 60 harvests are left globally, because of failing soil productivity (healthy soils are full of micro-biodiversity).

2. Radical transparency is the new reality and business is now accountable and responsible for social and environmental outcomes like never before. How you are addressing the nature crisis is one of the most critical questions that you and your board will be asked in the coming years by constituencies. Ignorance is not bliss!

3. As industry and society has woken up to the biodiversity crisis there has been convergence of aspirations and goals for achieving no net loss for biodiversity. 2020 is the “Super Year” for biodiversity, where national and global commitments to 2030 will be set through a new global framework through the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Biodiversity risks and issues occur across your value chain, from source materials through processing and manufacturing to retail. Impacts on nature will be diverse and, in some cases, quite cryptic and hard to define. They include downstream pollution impacts of material processing on aquatic life; habitat loss of forest; and the indirect impacts to wildlife caused by new industry, roads and jobs and the people they attract. Low levels of environmental governance in many of the links in your value chain will add to the risks to which you are exposed. New metrics and models mean that mapping and managing biodiversity footprint is hard but by no means impossible even for the most complex of value chains.

The production of raw materials does not have to be all about ‘negative impact’ – restoration, regeneration and building circularity offer viable alternative models. And therein lies the great opportunity for EPD: to re-create a compelling narrative grounded in new business approaches to products and materials.

Article provided by Guy Williams, Senior Principal Consultant at The Biodiversity Consultancy.

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