Guest blog: Reversing land degradation should top the global business agenda

Guest blog: Reversing land degradation should top the global business agenda
News & Blog | Blog Posted 31.07.15

Land is a critical asset to all companies. Whether they’re affected directly, as in the farming and extractive industries, or indirectly, as in the tourism, chemical and insurance industries, all companies are dependent on the abundant resources that healthy land provides. As natural capital is drawn down at a rate that exceeds the Earth’s capacity to replenish, it’s time for us to get creative about how to change our course of action for the future of business, society and the environment.

At WBCSD, we realize that addressing land degradation is a challenge. But we also understand that it represents an opportunity to recover lost benefits and treat land as a valuable asset. At present, 25% of all usable land on earth is degraded. Global economic losses as a result of land degradation are estimated at US$40 billion every year. But there’s hope. Out of all degraded land, more than two billion hectares worldwide, an area larger than South America, offer opportunities for restoration. A step change in the way that we restore and sustainably manage degraded land could yield up to US$1.4 trillion in increased crop production – not to mention the added benefit of revitalized carbon storage and sequestration.

Governments and policymakers are also beginning to recognize that land degradation challenges actually constitute important development opportunities. In 2012, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) introduced the concept of land degradation neutrality (LDN) and proposed a new goal of striving toward a land degradation neutral world over the coming decades.

As the connections between land degradation, climate change and poverty become increasingly clear, global policymakers are expected to back this target by placing more emphasis on restoring degraded land. The case is so strong and the issue is so prevalent, that the LDN target goal is expected to be adopted by the UNCCD parties during their twelfth Conference of the Parties (COP12) in Ankara, on 12-23 October 2015. The target is also now reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) proposal that is likely to be adopted at the UN General Assembly in September 2015:

By 2020, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world.

(UN General Assembly, 2014)

At WBCSD, we are committed to doing what we can to make this goal a reality and are working closely with the UNCCD to develop a business presence in Ankara later this year. For business, COP12 in Ankara is a major opportunity to organize dialogues with governments and NGOs on the topic, and to have a collective voice in the COP process. In order to prepare, and help companies understand just how important LDN is, our Ecosystems and Landscape Management team put together an Issue Brief for Business on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) that clarifies what LDN means for business and how companies can contribute. The information shared in the Brief is designed to mobilize business to help achieve the soon to be UNCCD and SDG “land degradation neutral world target.”

The coming years will undoubtedly determine the future of our planet, and land degradation neutrality needs to be part of the sustainable development equation. Business has a critical role to play in achieving land degradation neutrality targets as it uses land either directly or indirectly for its activities.

Companies can contribute to global land degradation neutrality targets in multiple ways:

  1. By adopting sustainable land management practices and implementing programs that minimize current land degradation and avoid it in the future
  2. By rehabilitating degraded or abandoned production lands
  3. By restoring degraded natural and semi-natural ecosystems that are critical to all stakeholders, including business.

By setting LDN as a target and contributing to national and global land degradation neutrality, business leaders have the opportunity to play a role in resolving key global issues, while building sustainable business models and resilient supply chains for the future.

Now is the time for business, national governments and policymakers to learn as much as they can about land degradation neutrality, why it’s important, how to contribute – and to get involved in the international discussion by adopting their own regional, national, and eventually international targets.

 If you’d like to get started, take a look at our Issue Brief for Business on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and stay tuned for the upcoming launch of our Road to Ankara website – designed to give businesses all of the information they need to make the right decision to be involved at COP12 and beyond.  Get informed and get started by looking at land in a new way –valuing our dependence on nature by integrating sustainable land management, targeted land restoration and, eventually, land degradation neutrality.

WBCSD is a partner of the World Forum on Natural Capital, which will take place on 23-24 November 2015. Click here to receive updates.


Violaine Berger, Director of Ecosystems and Landscape Management Cluster, WBCSD


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