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When Prince Charles and Elon Musk are on the same side you know the world is changing. The world’s oldest teenager and once its youngest billionaire have one thing in common. Charlie’s been pontificating about it for years, and Elon has just ditched Bitcoin for it. It’s the environment. Today, the 95-year-old David Attenborough is all the rage on YouTube, while investors have taken the prince’s message to heart and into their spreadsheets. The reason is a planet is a perfect evolutionary design without a design. And you mess with that design at your peril.

Covid-19 shows how interdependent and interrelated we all are because pandemics are in some ways the wages of environmental degradation. It’s easier for viruses to jump from animals to humans if we’ve messed with the Earth’s natural design. And businesses are now realising just how much we and they rely on natural resources like water or soil.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum reckons that half of global GDP or $44tn depends on nature. Now, companies used to assume that these assets would always exist and be free. Not any more. Mass murder of species is ongoing. We’ve lost 60 per cent of our birds, mammals, and fish over the last four decades. And 30 per cent to 50 per cent of all species may be lost by the middle of the 21st century without action. That’s scary.

So what can businesses do? Two things. First, executives can become eco-warriors getting involved in political lobbying over biodiversity issues and all taking direct action themselves. Second, what you can measure you can manage. Calculating the value of nature, realising what we need to protect is important. Now, that’s hard. Boffins can measure some aspects of E, the environment, like carbon emissions in a fairly standard scientific way. But tracking the economic value of, say, a bee, is much more subjective.

But ESG number crunchers are now trying. If the world lost all its pollinators, say, like those bees, it would lose $217bn from annual global agricultural output, a big price. Collectively, we need to spend around a trillion dollars a year to stop biodiversity loss, they reckon. And that’s such a big number that private finance and business needs to get involved. So when people talk about the E of ESG it’s now more than just about emissions but about our planet and every living creature in the widest possible sense.

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