To preserve life, we must protect the land on which it lives.
SDG 15 centers its objectives around the preservation of all life on land, focusing intently on a mission to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”*. The issue remains that today, the function of our global economy and the means of maintaining a decent quality of life for billions of people around the world depend on having access to and the cultivation of the earth’s resources. Therefore, deforestation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity all come at the cost of investors, businesses and individuals.
Human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface. Between 2010 and 2015 3.3 million hectares of forest were destroyed. Indeed, the deforestation of earth becomes increasingly distressing when considering the 1.6 billion people, of which 70 million are indigenous, that are dependent on forests for their livelihood**. The depletion of the world’s biodiversity only serves to compound other critical issues faced by the developing world, in particular the scarcity and lack of access to fresh food and clean water.
Whilst initiatives to replant trees and rehabilitate local ecosystems is to be praised and encouraged, complete restoration of our environment to how it once was is simply not possible once a species becomes extinct. The fragility of our ecosystems and the critical biodiversity that they’ve developed over millennia means that any single species has the potential to be the defining factor that ensures the balance of an ecosystem. The fact that 8% of the 8,300 animal breeds across the world are extinct and another 22% are at risk of extinction** reveals the fragility of our environment’s function and its vulnerability to irreversible damage. The preservation of our forests is critical to our future and is the basis of SDG 15’s mission to “promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally”*.
How businesses can assist with SDG 15:
Businesses often contribute to the world’s CO2 emissions and play a role in climate change through unavoidable business practices such as transportation and basic business operations. Businesses should actively work to offset their carbon footprint and contribute to the achievement of SDG 15 by planting trees. By planting trees in areas that have been deforested, businesses can work to offset their contribution to carbon emissions and take ownership over their role in climate action. Another sustainable business policy worth highlighting is the practice of negative screening which compels businesses to actively reduce and avoid conducting business or investing in companies detrimental to the environment. The long-term effect of negative screening is that it favours companies who value the preservation of our planet and encourages widespread sustainable and environmentally conscious business practice.