Skip to main content

Data for nature: the role of radical transparency

Amazon - Niki Data for nature

Niki Mardas, Executive Director of Global Canopy, contributes to the Telegraph Technology Intelligence LIVE conference, 2020

The dependence of our economic system on the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity has created not only a climate crisis but - perhaps of even greater consequence - an escalating nature crisis. Current and future pandemics are inextricably linked to this same dysfunctional relationship with nature, with deforestation being identified as a key driver of future disease risk. And we are perilously close to reaching tipping points, such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest, which will have cascading consequences for the Earth’s system.

We are at risk of financing our way to extinction. We need big ideas to address the nature and climate crisis; and one of these is radical transparency. 

Political will to bring greater accountability to the financing of the destruction of nature is growing, but the data needed to turn this momentum into meaningful action is all too often absent or insufficient. At times, we are fighting blind. The huge complexity of global supply chains and finance obscures connections and hinders progress. Without this data, laggards cannot be held accountable, and leaders can’t truly understand how to move financial flows from being nature-negative to nature-positive. Our groundbreaking data initiatives, including Trase and Trase Finance, are part of the solution, giving visibility to the deforestation risk of commodity supply chains, and the finance supporting them.

Radical transparency goes hand in hand with meaningful metrics. Right now we have the worst of all worlds: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) metrics provide the veneer of sustainability but are built on flawed data. Many of these ‘green’ funds contain some of the companies most tied to deforestation, meaning investment in these funds has the polar opposite of the intended impact.  

The responsibility for making this change happen lies with all of us, from consumers, to companies, to financial institutions and governments. The evidence - demonstrated by the Forest 500 initiative - is growing that only a handful of pioneering companies and financial institutions have taken any meaningful action. The powerbrokers of deforestation, and the nature and climate crisis, need disruption to provoke action - and that disruption is a new era of radical transparency. 

Taken from the contribution to the Telegraph Technology Intelligence LIVE conference, 2020, by Niki Mardas, Executive Director of Global Canopy

 

Image: Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, CIFOR, creativecommons