Coca-Cola, Unilever: Big businesses now also calling for nature restoration in Europe

Coca-Cola, Unilever: Big businesses now also calling for nature restoration in Europe
Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, United States. Credit: Belga/Yorick Jansens

An influential group of companies – including multinationals Coca-Cola and Unilever – are calling for nature restoration in Europe, as a new report has revealed the economic and social benefits that it would also have for businesses.

Following the controversial vote on the EU Nature Restoration Law in the European Parliament in July, companies such as Coca-Cola, Salesforce, EDF Energy, Unilever and Iberdrola are uniting to highlight the benefits of nature restoration for business and are calling on the EU to respond to the nature crisis as a matter of urgency.

"Healthy ecosystems are in jeopardy. As policymakers respond to this crisis, business leaders are increasingly asking what the evolving nature agenda means for them," Ursula Woodburn, Director of Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) Europe, told The Brussels Times.

"In the context of the European Green Deal and the EU Nature Restoration Law, we are demonstrating practical steps organisations can take to restore nature in their operations – and we hope more and more businesses will follow suit," she added.

Ambitious legal targets

It is in the interests of governments and citizens, but also businesses, to work towards the restoration of nature. Overall, the monetary benefits of restoring the EU’s priority habitats are estimated to reach around €1.8 billion.

As EU institutions are negotiating an agreement on the Nature Restoration Law (which introduces binding obligations) in the coming months. The law sets an EU-level objective to have nature restoration measures in place on at least 20% of EU land and sea by 2030, and on all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. It also includes more specific targets for agricultural, forest and urban ecosystems.

After some contention over the law passing in the European Parliament, the report urges the EU to create a policy framework which offers up ambitious legal targets, to help businesses engage.

"A key ask is clarity, in the form of a regulation. The companies we work with are clear: they want a legislative framework, they want a level playing field and they want long-term and effective regulation," said Woodburn. "If you want to be ambitious as a company, you need the law to help you to do that, instead of allowing less ambitious companies to produce cheap products that have a terrible impact on the environment."

"As an ambitious company, you want the framework to support your ambition, rather than leaving you vulnerable," she added.

The report states that the EU must guarantee the right levels of investment for nature restoration are in place. This may be funding to secure continued supply of goods, such as business programmes to encourage pollinator-friendly farming practices, or opportunities to invest in nature restoration as part of wider business efforts to reach carbon neutrality.

"We rely on nature for the water we use, and our ingredients and we understand that the restoration of natural ecosystems is key to the long-term viability of our business, the economy and society," Joe Franses, Vice President, Sustainability, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, said in a press release.

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"Nature is becoming a priority for companies, including for comprehensive climate action," said Tim Christophersen, VP Climate Action at Salesforce. "Nature and climate are interdependent and we cannot address one without the other – we welcome that more businesses and governments are making commitments and investments with this in mind."

Already, there is an emerging appetite for nature restoration from the private sector. The task now is to put in place the legal, financial and corporate factors to drive nature restoration as a key ally in the fight against climate change and to ensure a resilient future, the report stated.

"We depend on nature to live, it is not separate from us," Woodburn stressed. "And the collapse of it really threatens the stability of the whole financial system and the economy. It is important not to forget that nature is not separate from our systems. What we are looking for from the EU is a legislative playing field that can help enable us. We really need to move forward and find a good agreement."

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