Adapt to Thrive: transformational change for nature and business (Open Meeting)

Objective of the Townhall:

  • Present the GEO for Business Brief 1 entitled “Adapt to Thrive: What Transformational Change Means for Business”, and  discuss how nature plays a role in this transformation.

  • Discuss with Member States the actions that Government could take to support business transformation.

  • Introduce the Global Environment Outlook for Business process.

  • Highlight the findings of the sixth Global Environment Outlook.

Outcomes of the Townhall:

  • The scale and depth of COVID-19’s impacts are unprecedented, and they allow us to take stock, to rethink how nature and humanity interact. This is the moment to enact a transformative change and move to a Nature Positive Economy, in which energy, resources, food, water, transportation, healthcare, shelter and opportunity are provided in a way that is good for nature, supports jobs and health and provides basic needs for all.

  • Business is realizing that being closer to nature will be valuable for them, so they will be engaging with transformative processes. However, the partnership with governments and other actors will be fundamental to achieve a real change.

  • It is clear that there is a need for transformation to a circular economy and a change in the economic systems.

  • Brief 1 of GEO for Business will guide businesses on how to adapt to thrive.

  • Due to COVID-19, we face a choice; we can either support business sectors in going back to what they used to do, or we can shape the support so that they can face the future stronger. Businesses are realizing how material nature is to their continued existence.

  • If we want to achieve the goal to build a better future, the strategies of businesses need to fundamentally align with a nature positive mission: fully renewable, zero emissions and creating positive value for nature and society.


Key messages to the UN Environment Assembly:

  • Due to COVID-19, we face a choice and an unprecedented opportunity: rebuild our economy in the same old way or find ways to build a positive future. If we want to achieve the goal to build a better future, the strategies of businesses need to fundamentally align with a nature positive mission: fully renewable, zero emissions and creating positive value for nature and society.

  • We need to have jobs as a pillar in the post-COVID-19 recovery. If we don’t put people at the heart of the environment, we will fail.

  • COVID-19 gives us the sums of money to tackle issues like climate change, but we need to finance a socially fair transformation.

  • Business can be an enabler for transformative change, but governments need to engage business with a collaborative approach to create an enabling environment for change to happen.

  • Governments should work in collaboration with business to provide an effective strategy for transformation, which would include short-term achievements but also a long-term plan to reach a Nature Positive Economy and go beyond the business-as-usual goals of GDP growth.

  • Businesses are either leaders or adaptive followers. Governments shape the scope for business action through incentives and disincentives. Support can be financial or regulatory, so all government face the choice

  • Aid packages and infrastructure developments are based on public finance. Taxpayers money should as an absolute prerequisite not increase stress against nature and threaten SDG implementation.

  • Nature is a good business case for investment, regenerative if well managed. It is the perverse incentives put in place by governments that threaten sustainability, and they can and must change.

  • The business appetite for shifting towards sustainability is really there. Governments must not squander it by failing to provide the right incentives.

  • Business cannot change the systems by themselves. Only the regulators can change the marketplace and rules of the game.

  • The UN Environmental Assembly must call out those parts of the systems that hold sustainability back, such as NDCs that don’t speak of energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidies or halting food waste.

  • Implementing MEAs is a recipe for a sustainable economy.

  • It’s amazing we have so much progressive thinking now in both government and business. This gives us a blueprint (?) for change.

  • Nature is everyone’s business. The UN Environmental Assembly needs to stimulate collaboration between policymakers, business and different stakeholders to move towards a Nature Positive Economy.

  • New metrics for sustainable business are needed to quantify the change and direct the investments. Policies, investors and financial markets must start rewarding companies that shift from short-term, financial-only metrics to those that measure the quality and the sustainability of business growth.


• Jorge Laguna-Celis, Director, Governance Affairs, UNEP


  • H.E. Dr. Mohammed Bin Daina, Chief Executive of the Supreme Council for Environment of Bahrain & Vice President of the Bureau of the UN Environment Assembly
  • H.E. Ms. Brune Poirson, Secretary of State attached to the Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition
  • Paul Ekins, Director, Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy, University College London - Institute of Sustainable Resources
  • Derk Loorbach, Director of The Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT)
  • Theresia Ott, Chief Advisor - Environment, Rio Tinto
  • Eva Zabey, Executive Director, Business for Nature Coalition
  • Denise Delaney, Partner, SustainAbility
  • Aris Vrettos, Director, Centre for Business Transformation at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)
  • Ben Tuxworth, Director, Anthesis Group

Watch the Meeting Video