WBCSD framework to help business achieve Land Degradation Neutrality

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) outlines how businesses can finance and implement sustainable land management and restoration with inspiring examples of business action. 

Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island Photo: Shutterstock / Porta Nicholas

Land-based resources, such as soil, water or biodiversity, are the foundation of our economies and societies, giving us food, fibre, fuels and many other everyday products and services. However, 25% of usable land globally is degraded, at an estimated economic loss of US$ 40 billion per year.

Agriculture is an important driver of land degradation, responsible for approximately 80% of deforestation worldwide. Urbanisation is another major driving force; up to 7% of land in most of the developed world is covered by concrete, while the land area that is available for other uses is in constant decline.

While governments increasingly recognise the urgency of achieving land degradation neutrality, business must proactively support and demonstrate leadership for global-scale transformation of land management practices.

It is a business imperative to recognise Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as an investment that can help sustain and improve business operations in the long run. Land degradation directly impacts business profitability by affecting the availability and cost of natural resources, and limits business capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is not only the case for sectors that directly extract or harvest from land, such as agriculture, forestry or oil and gas, but also for the chemicals, apparel, tourism, finance and insurance sectors that are indirectly connected to land through their value chains.

There are major opportunities worldwide to restore degraded land for the benefit of business and society. About 2 billion hectares of degraded land, an area larger than South America, have the potential for restoration. Adopting sustainable land management can deliver an estimated US$ 1.4 trillion in increased crop production globally. Annual restoration of 10 to 12 million hectares of degraded land could secure the cost-efficient sequestration of 20% of global carbon emissions over two decades.

With its publications on LDN, WBCSD and member companies call for a clear policy framework for enabling business to engage and contribute to Land Degradation Neutrality. Based on inspiring examples of business action, this work outlines how business can finance and implement sustainable land management practices in direct operations as well as extended supply chains. It also presents key messages to policy makers and elaborates on the important role of business in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality.

WBCSD has been collaborating with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to help scale up efforts towards LDN, and has welcomed the adoption of the Land Degradation Neutrality target by the UNCCD in October 2015.

This is one of many important global commitments made in 2015 that requires effective implementation in 2016 and beyond. The IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i in September 2016 is a key milestone towards more effective policies and implementation practices for achieving Land Degradation Neutrality in business. 

For more information, please reach out to Violaine Berger, Director Ecosystems and Landscape Management at WBCSD on berger@wbcsd.org.

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