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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


29 September 2020 – Biodiversity is increasingly recognised for its role in building resilience against climate change, in supporting communities and livelihoods, and for its essential role in underpinning society and the economy. The Capitals Coalition and Cambridge Conservation Initiative today launched guidance, developed with input from CISL, that will enable businesses and financial institutions to put the value of biodiversity at the heart of decision making.

Global biodiversity is in rapid decline - the WWF Living Planet Report found that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles have seen an average drop of 68% since 1970; the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 reported that only 6 of world’s 20 global biodiversity goals will “partially achieved” by the 2020 deadline; and the IPBES Global Assessment estimates one million species are at risk of extinction. According to the World Economic Forum these stark trends put around $44 trillion of economic value generation at risk.

Global and regional frameworks for biodiversity such as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 are moving towards strategies that promote business decisions that value nature. However, a lack of consistent tools and frameworks to effectively integrate biodiversity value into corporate decision making has hampered efforts to date and continues to contribute to the rapidly accelerating destruction of biodiversity and mounting risk and exposure for businesses and financial institutions.

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has contributed towards new Biodiversity Guidance aiming to help businesses and financial institutions ensure that they better capture the value of biodiversity in their decision making. This will enable holistically informed, nature-positive decisions that safeguard the benefits that biodiversity provides to us all. The Guidance is a companion to the Natural Capital Protocol, a decision-making framework that enables organisations to identify, measure and value their impacts and dependencies on natural capital. This addition will empower businesses, financial institutions, policy makers and other organisations to affect positive change by conducting biodiversity-inclusive natural capital assessments to inform their decision making using the step-by-step approach of the internationally standardised Natural Capital Protocol.

There are four stages to the Guidance – Why? What? How? and What Next? Later this year a Biodiversity Guidance Navigation Tool and two introductory primers will also be launched to help users through a biodiversity-inclusive natural capital assessment, suggesting several tools and methodologies to successfully complete the process. 

The guidance was informed by a global CISL-led consultation with business, and piloted by leading businesses and financial institutions ensuring that their peers will understand and benefit from this work.

Mark Gough, CEO of the Capitals Coalition said: “The success of organisations around the world is dependent on the value they receive from the capitals; natural, human, social and produced. The value provided by biodiversity is a key part of this. Providing organisations with the tools needed to understand this value and to operationalise it in business decisions will provide a more holistic understanding of the system in which organisations operate, leading to integrated decision making with broad benefits across the capitals.”

Gemma Cranston, Director of Business and Nature at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) said: “Biodiversity loss is one of the greatest challenges facing society and requires joint efforts to reverse the trend.  Business has an important role to play and there is growing recognition of the critical relationship business has with nature.  Business requires practical support to underpin and deliver upon their nature commitments. With a consultation engaging over 250 actors from business, policy, finance and NGOs we have drawn upon a range of views to develop this guidance such that it is applicable and answers the questions being asked by leaders, practitioners and those new to the subject alike.”

Jonny Hughes, WCMC Chief Executive Officer at the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said: “The next ten years is the only window we have for tackling the global crisis facing nature. Every part of society will need to be involved in reversing biodiversity loss, but particularly the private sector. This Biodiversity Guidance will be crucial to helping businesses and financial institutions urgently measure and understand their impacts and dependencies on nature and become nature-positive.”

Robert Alexandre-Poujade, analyst at BNP Paribas Asset Management, a piloting organisation said: “The Biodiversity Guidance is the one-stop shop for biodiversity applied to finance. It uses the best available science and provides a clear framework for financial institutions to use in developing their biodiversity strategies, and ultimately reduce their impacts and manage their dependencies on nature.”

Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director at the Directorate-General for Environment at the European Commission, said: “It is essential for corporate decision makers to gain comprehensive insights into both the impacts and the dependencies of their products and processes on natural capital and biodiversity throughout the value chain. This guidance will provide a very useful contribution to the implementation of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, which aims to better integrate biodiversity into business’ decision making”.


This Guidance is part of the Integrating Biodiversity into Natural Capital Assessments project run in collaboration between the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the Capitals Coalition. The Cambridge Conservation Initiative is the focal point of research and advice on biodiversity issues for the Coalition.

Developing this guidance has been a collaborative effort. UNEP-WCMC has led the final stages to formalise this guidance and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative partners that have contributed to this project include: BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB), United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute (UCCRI) and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

This project received funding from the European Commission DG Environment under the LIFE Programme. This project also received funding from BNP Paribas Asset Management, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety, Kering and Repsol.


Access the guidance here. Find out more about CISL's Business and Nature team here.