Thriving biodiversity is essential to basic human rights – such as the right to life, clean air and water, health, and adequate food and culture as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. How do we protect it?
The continuing loss of biodiverse ecosystems is not only depleting natural capital, but also threatens indigenous and local communities. Indigenous peoples represent less than 5% of the global population, but they live in areas where 80% of the planet’s biodiversity is located, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Issues of deforestation, resource dependency, rights over land, and cultural heritage can have a profound and disproportionate impact on these communities – particularly women, children and others most vulnerable to inequality.
Recognising the right to a healthy environment is critical to promote policy coherence, strengthen environmental justice, and advocate for human rights in environmental decisions.
How regulation recognises human rights
Recent biodiversity initiatives have moved the needle in promoting human rights:
October 2021: UN Human Rights Council Resolution 48/13 recognised the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
July 2022: the UN General Assembly, also recognised this right and encouraged governments to adopt policies, enhance cooperation and share good practices for a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all”.
December 2022: the historic Global Biodiversity Framework was agreed at COP151 recognising the conservation role of indigenous peoples and local communities. It also committed to non-violation of human rights in biodiversity policies and the governance and management of conservation; and the sustainable use and benefit-sharing of biodiversity.
Consideration of human rights in investments
Biodiversity has diverse impacts on our planet. As a responsible investor we consider the risks and opportunities of this global challenge in the following ways:
1. Biodiversity and its challenges are central to the theme of “planetary boundaries” – one of the three sustainability themes around which our research and engagement activities are built. It also reaches across our other two themes of climate change – adapting to the world’s future temperature; and inclusive capitalism – living equitably with constrained resources.2. Human rights and biodiversity are considered systematically in our investment processes, for example, through our global exclusions policy and our sustainable minimum exclusions policy.2 By applying negative screening we identify and exclude from the investment universe companies involved in controversial practices and violations of international norms. One example is the UN Global Compact which includes principles that support human rights.
Guided by our three themes we seek to address the most material risks and opportunities in the protection of biodiversity – for both people and planet – to shape the future impact of our investments.
Read more from our research and stewardship analysts on investing in biodiversity:
1 COP 15 refers to the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
2 Our global exclusion policy as well as our sustainable minimum exclusion policy are examples of our commitment to incorporate and consider biodiversity in our investment process.
Five themes for 2024
Theme 4: From the transition of regulation to the regulation of transition
Our fourth theme for 2024 looks at how sustainability regulation is beginning to promote tangible progress on climate transition.
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