At the occasion of the Business Nature Summit organised by the European Commission, banks have pledged to protect biodiversity. Currently, 2,6 trillion USD are being invested, in 2019 alone, in sectors driving biodiversity destruction according to the Portfolio Earth report. Even though the pledge may be a step in the right direction, it is doubtful if putting a financial value on nature will bring the profound changes needed in the way nature and communities are being “managed” by an increasingly concentrated financial sector. We need a regenerative paradigm shift.

During the Business Nature Summit on 8 and 9 December 2020, both the European Commission and banks agreed on saying that “half of the world economy depends on nature.“ The question here is: do we need to wait to burn the last forests, extract the last resources and wait for air to be unbreathable to understand that all human economic activity is part of nature and not a separate entity that is external and can be calculated? International Organisations, including IUCN, IPCC and FAO have repeatedly warned us that continuing as we do now will lead to massive biodiversity loss, climate chaos and mass hunger – in a time horizon of less than 50 years.

To tackle these systemic challenges threatening life, including economic survival, we need a paradigm shift towards regenerative principles in business and politics. Instead of putting quantitative values on ever-increasing types of capitals, we need to understand the logics of life, thinks in terms of ecosystem facilitation and create rather than extract economic value. This doesn’t mean that quantitative metrics become unimportant, but that the focus now needs to be put on nature- and community-affirming action.

A revealing picture about how banks think about nature has been depicted during a presentation by a Dutch bank. While biodiversity is all about diversity, interconnectedness, flow and protecting places for natural evolution, this chart still pictures biodiversity as something external to economic activity. The opposite is true. Instead of using the same thinking that has created today’s problems to solve our challenges, we now need to build a regenerative economy by incorporating its principles.

What does nature mean to the banking sector?

Regenerative business principles:

  • Life is emerging, collaborative and affirmative and cannot be reduced to data or a mathematical equation
  • We are all, as individuals and organisations, part of different systems (i.e. economy, nature, society)
  • The health of these systems impacts our health, that’s why we need to create win-win-win situations
  • By investing in synergies, system resilience and “making the cake bigger for everyone”, we will benefit ourselves
  • To increase systemic and business health, we can operate at special nodes in the network, helping connected entities to thrive

An inspiring and economically successful example presented during the Summit was FollowFood from Germany, who develop regenerative agriculture, have high quality and transparency standards for their organic products and actively try to change the food system by engaging with policy-makers, businesses and civil society. As the latest report by the WBCSD on the growing circular bioeconomy shows, “the economic opportunity for bio-based products to complement or even substitute conventional ones is estimated to be USD $7.7 trillion by 2030 for food and feed waste.”

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