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Businesses must adapt to survive

05 February 2021
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The age of ‘business as usual’ is over. Adapt to Survive: Business transformation in a time of uncertainty, the first of six GEO for Business Briefs from UNEP, is clear that unless businesses make the shift towards sustainable, nature positive operations, they risk being left behind.

UNEP has produced the Global Environment Outlook since 1995. The global environment outlook and associated processes respond to the founding mandate for UNEP to keep the global environment under review. A diverse network of international scientific and other professional communities contribute to these global assessments. Alongside the main publication, UNEP has developed tailored outreach products for key groups. These include Youth, Cities and Local Governments, and now Business.

UNEP’s GEO-6 for Business Briefs are written by business, for business. GEO for Business help to identify opportunities for the private sector to collaborate in achieving a nature positive and circular economy.

This inaugural briefing highlights that the scale of global environmental challenges is unprecedented, that business transformation is critical and possible, and that shifting towards a Nature-Positive approach is the best way for business to transform.

The brief says: “Because of the scale of the challenge, time is of the essence, and business is fundamental to the solution. But business planning needs to align with a nature-positive and gender equality mission that uses only renewable energy, restores biodiversity, aims for gender-equal employment practices and moves towards a fully circular economy.”

Welcoming the launch of the brief, Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, said: “CEOs and entrepreneurs have the power to steer the economy towards a new model of prosperity. There is a tremendous opportunity for those who take up this challenge, who dare to explore, to experiment and to collaborate. But – and I want to be very clear here – for businesses who fail to transform, only disaster lies ahead.”

Adapt to Survive outlines the factors required for realising nature positive economic business models that are transformative, regenerative, and profitable including:

Corli Pretorius, Deputy Director of the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a profound impact on corporate governance, and the global climate and nature crises pose an even greater challenge. It is more important than ever that businesses are resilient and adaptable to changing market conditions and turn crisis into opportunity by building back better.”

Purpose, innovation and collaboration are key factors in taking positive action on both an individual business and sector level. Many businesses have found that their stakeholders and employees expressed strong support for a nature positive strategy and a redefinition of purpose.

Leading business are setting the pace, but the economic metamorphosis has just begun. Achieving long-term planetary stability will depend on unprecedented and systemic changes in how we produce and consume goods and services, and manage our ecosystems.

The other briefings in the GEO for Business series will be released throughout 2021. Find out more about the briefings and the themes they will cover here.