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  • UN Global Compact Network Malaysia & Brunei

Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life On Land

The Roles of Businesses in Ensuring Life on Land

Terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems are under immense pressure as challenges including biodiversity loss, land degradation and illicit wildlife trade mount. Many biodiversity hotspots, including biodiverse savannahs, grasslands, and tropical rainforests, are under heightened threat from activities linked to global supply chains. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states that biodiversity is the foundation on which human lives depend. Biodiverse ecosystems not only provide essential goods including food, water, fibre, and medicines, but also irreplaceable services such as the regulation of disease and the purification of air and water.

Business should, at a minimum, respect applicable environmental laws governing pollution, land-use, and life on land. Responsible business practice also adopts and integrates international standards that have been developed to support the core principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol. Crucially, these international standards recognize that natural resources are not infinite, and that genetic resources should be shared equitably.

There is significant scope for business leadership on Goal 15. Leadership involves understanding and valuing natural ecosystems, ensuring that activities across internal operations and the value chain contribute to protecting ecosystems, and innovating and providing finance for preservation and enhancement of ecosystems. To achieve this, they can adopt the highest environmental standards and implement procedures to protect natural ecosystems that are affected by business and supply chain activities, including land remediation and rehabilitation, and habitat protection and restoration. They are encouraged to do so through multi-stakeholder partnerships and standards where they can. As drivers of innovation, companies can commit to research, development and deployment of new technologies to help decouple economic activity from the degradation of natural ecosystems. Businesses can lead by galvanizing finance to create awareness, protect, and further develop natural ecosystems. Furthermore, current economic structures tend to undervalue natural ecosystems leading to the disproportionate conversion of these systems for agricultural or urban development uses. Businesses can play a key role in developing and adopting natural capital accounting protocol to correct for this.

State of Life on Land in Malaysia

  • As of 2021, Malaysia’s forest cover is currently at 55.3% of total land area, exceeding the country’s initial commitment made in the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which was to maintain at least 50% of land mass under forest cover. Malaysia currently has a total forested area of 18.27 million hectares, of which 10.92 million hectares are Permanent Reserve Forests and 3.31 million hectares are totally protected areas.

  • Malaysia succeeded in significantly curbing deforestation every year since 2016, one key reason is attributed to the nationally mandated and legally enforceable Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme. This proves that government involvement in ensuring businesses are responsible for their sustainable use of land resources is effective and critical for not only in limiting deforestation, but also in protecting biodiversity.

  • According to the Malaysian Nature Society, 8 out of 10 hornbill species face the threat of local extinction in Malaysia due to forest loss, habitat degradation and poaching. In addition, there are more than one thousand threatened species in Malaysia (2014).

  • In Peninsular Malaysia, there are 6 Forest Management Units that are certified and maintained by the Forest Management Certification.

Do your actions satisfy leadership qualities?

1. Intentionality

  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 15? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?

  • Are you committed to learning from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?

  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

2. Ambition

3. Consistency

4. Collaboration

5. Accountability

Framework for Business Action

Business Action 1: Implement policies and practices to protect natural ecosystems that are affected by business and supply chain activities

Companies have a responsibility to abide by national environmental standards and international treaties. Leading companies go beyond this and set new benchmarks on pursuing growth without damaging natural ecosystems. They are encouraged to do so through multi-stakeholder partnerships and standards. Leading companies implement procedures to protect natural ecosystems across multiple tiers of their supply chains. This can include supplier selection and working with strategic suppliers to help build their capacity to adhere to, and exceed, environmental standards.

Example Practice

A cosmetics company takes robust action to source its raw material from sustainable sources to ensure that its business does not contribute to deforestation; it has time-bound targets with the aim of being deforestation-free by 2020.

Business Action 2: Research, develop, and deploy products, services, and business models to help decouple economic activity from the degradation of natural ecosystems

Companies can lead on Goal 15 by undertaking and supporting research, development, and deployment activities with an aim to introduce viable technologies that help decouple economic activity from environmental degradation. This can comprise new products and processes to minimize the impact of economic activity on natural ecosystems and protect and enhance the capacity of natural ecosystems. These innovations can have applications throughout the value chain, including in processes to extract and produce basic materials, through to consumption of products and services.

Example Practice

A company develops fully biodegradable products and packaging, and promotes industry-wide adoption

Business Action 3: Galvanize finance to create awareness, protect, and further develop natural ecosystems

Companies in all sectors, from finance to industries with a direct impact on their environment, play a role in allocating capital in a way that is commensurate with protecting and developing healthy natural ecosystems. Companies with sufficient clout to influence investment decisions of others can lead by galvanizing finance to support ecosystem conservation, restoration and development efforts, and build awareness among relevant stakeholders. They can identify funding gaps and focus particularly on regions that do not have the capacity to finance support for natural ecosystems, so as to maximize positive impact.

Example Practice

An apparel and equipment retailer establishes a venture fund which backs start-ups with an aim to protect natural habitats

Business Action 4: Design and implement solutions to accurately value and respect natural capital, and drive wider adoption of these solutions

Companies can lead by designing and implementing solutions that can help integrate the full value of natural capital into decision-making relating to the business’ end-to-end operations, but which are also replicable and applicable beyond that. Methods can include natural capital accounting and innovative methods for payments for ecosystem services. Leading companies make sure that these solutions gain traction by collaborating with Governments, supply chain members and other stakeholders to build capacity for reflecting the full value of natural ecosystems in decision-making. They also showcase their own solutions to protect ecosystems.

Example Practice

A construction company adopts a biodiversity offset policy: if it is unavoidable to negatively affect a part of the natural habitat in one area, it creates an equivalent amount of natural habitat in another area, after consulting with the affected stakeholders and government authorities

Healthy natural ecosystems are foundational to many business activities and caring for them can deliver huge benefits to companies. Natural ecosystems that provide critical services to business and the business environment include food provision, water purification, hazard protection and nitrogen regulation. Forests and other highly biodiverse and carbon rich ecosystems have an irreplaceable role in air purification and carbon sequestration, which improves health outcomes for workers and boosts economic productivity.

Since natural biomes are highly interlinked, action on Goal 15, such as the preservation of forests, can strongly contribute to Goal 13 on climate action and to Goal 14 on life below water. It can also directly contribute to ensuring that there is responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). Furthermore, action on Goal 15 can help reduce poverty and inequality (Goals 1 and 10). The rural poor rely on natural ecosystems for their daily needs. When the services provided from ecosystems are disrupted, the disadvantaged lack the means to replace them. With proper management, thriving ecosystems offer a path out of poverty. Preserving natural ecosystems also supports the natural mechanisms of disease control and the genetic resources that are critical for the discovery of new medicines; which can help advance Goal 3 on good health and well-being.


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