Natural capital focus shifts
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Companies are looking for commercial opportunities from the natural environment rather than be reactive to risks as they arise, according to a study by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
The institute found that the focus of firms in its Natural Capital Leaders Platform, which includes Asda, Mars and Nestlé, had changed since they were last questioned in 2013.
Now they are more likely to look at the opportunities from maintaining the natural environment rather than adopting a risk-focused response to issues such as water scarcity, says the report, Operationalising Natural Capital.
Strategic planning, supply chain transformation and market differentiation were identified as the main drivers for firms’ decisions on the natural environment.
The study suggests that, as companies move to a more opportunistic and commercial approach to natural resources and ecosystem health, they are able to engage departments beyond the corporate responsibility teams.
These include supply chain and operations, communications, product and research and development, sales, and the senior leadership team. Engagement with sales and corporate functions, specifically finance, was a relatively recent development.
Adopting commercial language was most successful in engaging non-sustainability specialists. When discussing risks associated with the natural environment, terms like ‘cost’ and ‘brand’ were used, while ‘yield’, ‘value’ and social benefit’ were more likely to be used when identifying opportunities.
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