“It is extraordinary in my lifetime how the world has changed. When I was at university the basis of our understanding of ecology was still not complete. As for the notion we could exterminate anything of significance, that was impossible.”
Sir David Attenborough
In the 70 years since Sir David Attenborough’s university days, much has changed. We have increased our understanding of and appreciation for how the natural world underpins life on Earth, the fragility of our planet’s natural systems, and the need to protect these systems.
In this context, the private sector’s dependence on a healthy natural world is an area of particular focus and growing prominence. The World Economic Forum (WEF) included a number of environmental risks, including biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, in the top ten risks identified in the WEF’s Global Risks Report 2019.
Within Sir David’s adult life, the UN’s approach to the problems facing our planet has also undergone a significant change. The ongoing commitment to global well-being is now closely linked with the need for development to advance within planetary boundaries. In 2015 the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which strive to address the challenges we face using an integrated and holistic approach. Investing in nature has the potential to make a significant contribution to all 17 Goals, and the private sector is key to this investment.
Today the Cambridge Conservation Initiative will host an event at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, exploring the role of nature in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. The panel discussion and round-table will take place in the SDG tent, and will bring together business leaders, academics and conservation practitioners to share their insights on developing nature-based solutions that reverse the loss of biodiversity at scale.
The panel will be chaired by Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and himself a prominent thinker on human rights and environmental law. The panel will draw on expert insight from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative partners, including IUCN, UNEP-WCMC and Fauna & Flora International. The role of the natural world in delivering the UN’s SDGs will feature prominently, with a particular focus on nature’s contribution to sustainability, as well as to health, equality, justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Business is already investing significantly in managing and conserving nature, but there are still considerable opportunities to do more. As panellist Corli Pretorius, Deputy Director of the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, explains, “Nature’s sustainability should be explicit in our procurement decisions and consumer choices. It should form an integral part of the decision-making of a financial system for sustainable development.” André Hoffmann, panellist and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Roche Holding Ltd. agrees, “The business community has the chance to take a leadership role in including the natural world in business thinking. For years the benefits delivered by nature have been undervalued by the private sector. We now require a wholesale shift to a new way of operating, towards innovative nature-based approaches that strive to improve the state of the natural world to ensure a sustainable future for society and our planet.”
This event recognises a pivotal moment in the fate of our natural world, both in terms of its parlous state and its increasing prominence in the limelight. Sir David Attenborough, who has witnessed both the birth of conservation, and an increasing focus on the environment across sectors, will conclude the panel discussion with his thoughts on nature’s role in the future of humanity. The sheer amount of change Sir David has experienced in his own lifetime provides hope that equally significant transformation is possible in the years to come, and that humanity can create a sustainable future for all life on earth.
The event will be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXQ7LB3h8l0 on Tuesday 22 January at 11am (GMT).