At Accenture, we believe sustainability is the new digital: In the future, all businesses will be sustainable. We’re committed to being one of the most sustainable companies in the world, and we’re already embedding sustainability-by-design into our core business. We’re thinking about our impact on everyone, and treating nature like a stakeholder.
As the interdependence between business and nature becomes increasingly urgent, humans will have to work together to protect the natural world. We must take collective action to stop nature loss. We must allow nature to recover and regenerate. And we must act fast.
The Get Nature Positive movement and accompanying online handbook were launched last year to enable leaders to develop a “net nature positive” mindset in their businesses. Founded by the Council for Sustainable Business (CSB) and supported by Defra with creative support from Accenture and many other organisations, Get Nature Positive seeks to build momentum on nature and biodiversity.
The nature-positive movement is growing
Awareness about the need to address biodiversity varies in the business world. But urgency about the need for change is coming from multiple directions, and the movement is growing.
Some sustainable-by-design businesses are already working toward biodiversity. They’ve made a direct correlation between a healthy planet and a healthy business. They know that if nature isn’t healthy, many of the natural resources that businesses use won’t be readily available. Their businesses are designed or are being re-engineered to work with nature. Increasingly, discerning consumers want to buy from businesses like these.
In other businesses, the cue for change is coming from the rising Environmental, Social and Governance movement. Investors are increasingly using ESG criteria to analyse the risks and opportunities for businesses they’re considering investing in. That has led many businesses to incorporate non-financial values into their long-term strategies.
Collaboration and technology are key to impact
Through our own journey to net-zero carbon, we’ve learnt that collaboration is key to making an impact. We know we won’t be able to deliver our carbon target in isolation, so we’ve consciously and constantly collaborated with our people, our supply chain, our ecosystem partners and our clients. We can tap into our collaborative culture and our network to make similar leaps toward nature positivity.
We also know that technology can help us. Once we’ve found common values and set measurable biodiversity goals together, we’ll find new ways to use technology to move toward a better world.
Nature metrics are on the horizon
Currently, businesses lack science-based targets for nature like the ones that exist for carbon. But those targets are expected in 2022, and frameworks to measure nature-positive gains are in development. In the meantime, Get Nature Positive is intended to help businesses get ready for those metric targets.
The online handbook provides support and inspiration, and contains recent case studies, ranging from completed projects to those still in the early stages and ongoing, which highlight some of the progress that’s already being made. It shows what businesses are doing and how they’re doing it, allowing us to learn from each other. Below are just a few of Accenture’s Nature Positive stories.
Trees and Bees
The Accenture Forest and Busy Bees project was an idea that arose from a corporate commitment to protect our environment and respond to major threats to our ecosystem.
In many areas, woodland habitats are either scarce or under threat. Ireland is a classic example, with one of the lowest rates of forestry cover in Europe. About 11 per cent of the land is covered by forest, compared to the European average of 40 per cent, of which only two per cent is made up of native species.
Bees are another critical part of an ecosystem under threat. Climate change and destruction of the natural habitats of bees has led to a decrease in bee populations around the world. The loss of one species is bad enough, but as pollinators, bees help plants thrive. When we lose bees, overall biodiversity suffers.
Accenture’s Earth Network, an employee-led environmental group, partnered with the Native Woodland Scheme, the Woodland Environmental Fund and Bee Green for support with planting an Accenture Forest in Ireland. In March of 2020, Accenture Ireland planted a total of 75,000 native Irish trees on 23.84 hectares across three sites in Kerry, Wicklow, Westmeath. Native species planted include sessile oak, downy birch, Scots pine, holly, hazel and rowan.
Tree-planting efforts were in conjunction with the Busy Bee project, which placed beehives on the roof of The Dock, Accenture’s Innovation Hub in Dublin. A sedum green roof was installed onto The Dock, which created an ideal forage habitat for the bees. A prototype hive was also installed. It contains sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and sound to allow for real-time monitoring of hive conditions while limiting disturbance to the bees.
In the Westmeath project, new trees have already allowed indigenous plants and animals to return to their natural habitats, clean the air we breathe, and provide organic flood defences. The trees have yet to reach their full height, but early signs of nature regeneration are already evident.
The Busy Bees project was also a success. During high season the hives house between 60,000 – 90,000 bees, which can yield up to 200 jars of honey.
The increasing demand for sustainable energy solutions has resulted in a rise of wind farms in the UK. These wind farms have an environmental impact on the surrounding wildlife and landscape, though approval processes attempt to limit their impact.
To counter the potential negative impact of windfarms on the ecosystem, an in-depth monitoring system was needed to collect data on protected species such as puffins. Traditional methods of collecting data were time consuming and inaccurate. A more streamlined approach was needed to monitor bird movement, which would in turn expedite the windfarm consenting process.
In a project with wind farm developer SSE Renewables, Microsoft and NatureScot, the Accenture-owned company Avanade helped create a monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence to count birds nesting on Scotland’s Isle of Man.
Cameras were positioned on the island to monitor the local puffin population. These cameras were synced with an artificially intelligent puffin counter that would detect, count and monitor the birds during their summer breeding season. The counter provided data that could help reduce the impact of development on the puffin population.
Internet of Birds
Besides being beautiful, birds play a vital role in biodiversity because they’re pollinators. But natural habitats for birds are under threat. There’s a pressing need to create awareness of birds and the impact of human activities on their habitats. And for conservation efforts to be successful, the urgency of the effort must engage more people and communities.
Internet of Birds is a citizen-science app that uses the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It can predict the species of more than 1000 birds from the Indian subcontinent based on a digital photograph uploaded by a user and confirmed with data from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a wildlife research NGO in India.
India is a biodiversity hotspot and home to more than 1,300 species of birds. Realizing that the country lacked a central repository of images that would help citizen bird watchers and conservationists identify and track birds, Accenture Labs (Asia Pacific) provided pro bono services to design and build the platform.
When it was launched in 2016, The Internet of Birds could identify only 100 birds. Since then, the free app has engaged amateur bird watchers across India. They’ve uploaded thousands of digital photos and helped train the machine learning software for greater accuracy. More than 1,000 species can now be identified.
In addition to these projects, we’ve created a practical guide for business leaders, as well as for our own people and clients, to help them get the most out of the Get Nature Positive handbook. The guide is broken down into four easy-to-follow steps, and includes useful everyday hints and tips. Download the guide and go to getnaturepositive.com to start your journey today.
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