11 JANUARY 2023

Grosvenor UK’s reaction to COP15: Biodiversity Action, coming into bloom

A personal view from Ad Sinha and Drew Davy.

Biodiversity preservation and the protection of nature is of paramount importance to societyEcosystems provide essential services, such as healthy soil, clean water supplies and clean air. We need resilient ecosystems to continue providing the services they currently do. However, the Living Planet Index estimates a 69% decline in monitored wildlife populations over the last 50 years, a precipitous decline. Furthermore, IPBES reports that 14 of 18 categories of ecosystem services had declined since 1970. We need to act now to halt the decline of the world’s biodiversity. 

2022’s COP15 agreement is an exciting step forward. Of the 23 new targets, there are several that are particularly impactful for the property sector, which could change the way we think about, measure and report on urban biodiversity. For example, Target 12, to significantly increase the area and quality and connectivity of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces in urban and densely populated areas sustainably will change business’ approach to nature, especially in areas such as Grosvenor UK’s heartland in central London and Liverpool. 

However, several questions need to be answered to enable property businesses to deliver decisive and impactful strategies: 

  • How to create actionable targets for biodiversity net gain, which stand up to recessionary and commercial headwinds.

  • How to translate these targets to action, especially using novel incentives and financing structures (such as from targets 18 & 19 regarding subsidies and financing). 
  • Whether and how businesses will be mandated to report on dependencies and risks in a standardised manner, especially across our supply chains and respond to target 15 (how businesses will need to monitor and report on nature) in the new agreement. 

GPUK's approach

Grosvenor Property UK committed to Valuing Nature as one of its four central green goals from 2019, having incorporated nature into its placemaking activities for decadesLast year, Grosvenor UK launched our first biodiversity strategy using the DEFRA metric to measure our biodiversity under management. Improving our biodiversity is one of our central business performance indicators, alongside carbonother sustainability and social metrics and commercial performance. We are targeting a 20% increase in biodiversity on managed green spaces and a 100% increase on developments by 2030  and each business area has specific biodiversity net gain targets in place to achieve this goal. We have already in one year achieved auplift using implementations such as green roofs and changing our management practices to encourage biodiversity into our urban spaces. 

Challenges for the property sector & biodiversity

Target 15 enables businesses to monitor and disclose dependencies on biodiversity. It represents a huge step forward in ensuring biodiversity is a central tenet for businesses. A key challenge will be how to involve and measure our supply chain’s impact on biodiversity, which will need strong cross-industry collaborationAvailable methodologies are limited for businesses, such as the University of Oxford’s methodology, which usually use proxies for biodiversity in order to account for supply chain impacts. Further work, and trials in business settings will be needed to find solutions to measuring our supply chain’s impact. 

How to create a standardised (ideally mandatory) framework for measuring impacts on biodiversity will be essential to drive accountability. How to translate our natural assets into ecosystem services as an industry remains a challenge. We are working with the Better Building Partnership and TNFD on how to disclose our nature risk, as well as our peers on how to assess biodiversity.  

Lastly, as our Executive Director for Sustainability Tor Burrows discussed in her article about recessionary pressures on climate goals, we cannot allow the recession to impact our progress on restoring nature.  

Looking forward

Without solving both climate and nature crises, we will not be able to solve either. As what works for the climate emergency does not always work for nature, we need to be aware of the trade-offs and avoid setting targets which inadvertently cause harm to nature. Therefore, we need to increasingly report, as a sector, on our impact on nature as much as our impact on carbon. Both metrics need to be equally weighted in commercial decisions. 

We still have a long way to go to reverse the damage already done. However, there is clear momentum for businesses to report and act on biodiversity net gain. In the UK, this comes off the back of a ‘lost decade for nature’ according to the RSPB – with 70% the UK’s 2011-2020 nature targets not met. We do not have time for another decade to go by with the UK’s degraded environment – and this new agreement will need to spur even faster uptake of biodiversity metrics into business’ strategies to make up for lost time. 

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