«We are in a biodiversity crisis»

The loss of diversity in nature has serious consequences for society and the economy. Not only our health, but also the value chain of many companies is directly dependent on nature. Companies and individuals must now take an active role in preserving biodiversity, says sustainability expert Barbara Dubach in an interview.

In Switzerland, the topic of biodiversity is mainly focussed on agriculture - a missed opportunity?

Barbara Dubach: Not only agriculture, but also the economy and society are dependent on the ecosystem services provided by nature: The air we breathe, the water we drink or the food we eat. Nature also provides less visible ecosystem services in the form of carbon sequestration, protection from floods and storms or soil quality.

It's a stark contrast: 68% of companies are dependent on nature in their value chain. But only 7% of Fortune Global 500 companies, the 500 largest companies by revenue, have clear biodiversity targets.

What does the biodiversity crisis mean for our members in the chemical, pharmaceutical and metal construction/electrical engineering industries?

The chemical and pharmaceutical industries are dependent on nature: they source natural raw materials, utilise biodiversity for research and development or are inspired by biological processes. In the metal construction and electrical engineering industry, the dependency is less direct, but the availability of raw materials and environmental considerations play a role in the value chain. The main risks are water scarcity, changes in forest productivity, landslides, changes in freshwater and seawater utilisation, loss of trees, environmental pollution and damage to protected, preserved areas and indigenous peoples.


«Companies now need to develop new partnerships and forms of collaboration.»
Barbara Dubach Sustainability expert

Companies now need to develop new partnerships and forms of collaboration within and outside the value chain. To pool resources and exchange knowledge in order to overcome obstacles. It is also important for companies to first identify their biodiversity risks and dependencies, define their goals and have these validated externally. A further step is to ensure sustainable supply chains, develop and scale nature-positive solutions, support biodiversity-promoting projects and report on their own commitment.

Where does the responsibility lie, with the company or with each individual employee?

It is the responsibility of both companies and individuals to actively contribute to the conservation of biodiversity. However, companies can play a key role by integrating sustainable practices into their business activities.

The loss of biodiversity poses significant risks to the global economy, while at the same time offering a field of new business and investment opportunities. Why is the urgency of the issue still not recognised?

The discrepancy between potential and realisation in relation to biodiversity could currently still be due to a lack of awareness, insufficient regulation or limited incentives.

Nevertheless, politicians are now slowly reacting. The topic is finding its way into some EU directives. The EU and the Global Biodiversity Framework have set the target of protecting 30% of land and marine areas by 2030. The financial sector has also become active: With the "Nature Action 100", investors are demanding clear targets and measures from companies to drive forward the issue of nature and biodiversity. The 100 companies include DSM Firmenich, Glencore, Nestlé, Novartis and Roche. 

Everyone is always talking about the climate crisis, but we are in a biodiversity crisis.

Yes, we are facing both a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis. Both are intertwined and have complex interactions. The loss of biodiversity can have a negative impact on the climate and vice versa. At the same time, many nature-based solutions can lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions. Reforestation, improved forest management, biochar, agroforestry, renaturalisation of peatlands and the improvement of agricultural practices are examples of such solutions. It is crucial to approach both issues as a challenge and an opportunity. Comprehensive solutions are needed that take into account both climate protection and biodiversity conservation.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity encompasses the different forms of life (species of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria), the different habitats in which species live (ecosystems such as forests or bodies of water), as well as the genetic diversity within species (e.g. subspecies, varieties and breeds). In short: biodiversity is the diversity of habitats, animal and plant species.
(Source: FOEN, fact sheet on the International Year of Biodiversity)

Facts about biodiversity

  1. 1 million species are threatened with extinction, while 47% of natural ecosystems have already declined.
  2. Natural carbon sinks such as forests, grasslands and wetlands are being cleared to make way for food crops or palm oil. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the world is losing almost 10 million hectares of trees every year, which is roughly the size of Iceland.
  3. According to a study by PwC, 58 trillion US dollars are moderately or heavily dependent on nature. This makes it clear that the ongoing loss of nature and biodiversity harbours considerable risks for the global economy and society. Companies are called upon to act now.
  4. According to estimates by the World Economic Forum, business opportunities in the area of biodiversity will be worth USD 10.1 trillion annually by 2030. These will contribute to a nature-positive future and create 395 million jobs at the same time.
  5. A recently published study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that around USD 7 trillion in financial resources from public and private sources have a negative impact on nature.

Barbara Dubach

The founder and managing director of the engageability competence centre has been passionate about sustainability for more than 25 years and has many years of international experience in industry, the public and non-profit sectors. She has also recently been appointed Managing Director of the Innovate 4 Nature Foundation.


Manuela Donati

Manuela Donati