Business and finance
Improving legal frameworks: business calls for governments to support ecocide law.
Business, financial institutions and governments have a unique opportunity to respond to climate and ecological crisis.
By acting together now to hold those responsible for unlawful or wanton destructive practices to account, we can create better and fairer ways of doing business that are firmly supported by international legal frameworks.
Mass damage and destruction of nature and vital ecosystems has been taking place for decades as a grievous consequence of rapid economic development. For the most part, no-one has been held responsible for this serious harm, increasingly known as ecocide*.
By affecting the very life-support systems of the Earth, this cumulative damage has led us to the climate and ecological crisis we now face, and it has profound implications for people, nature and - inevitably - for business.
Businesses, like everything else, depend on healthy ecosystems
For the first time in human history, we face a stark truth: the future of the living world entirely depends on the decisions and actions we take today. That’s why, as members of the business and finance community, we are standing up and calling for urgent action.
We are all obliged to operate within the parameters of the law. However, current regulatory provisions alone are not proving adequate to prevent severe and either widespread or long-term harm; neither are they supporting the stability that business needs to thrive. In order to create lasting protection for the ecosystems that sustain all life, something stronger is needed to underpin and reinforce existing frameworks.
Towards a climate-safe future and a healthy business environment
As members of the business and finance community, we believe it is now essential for an international law of ecocide to be introduced to ensure lasting protection for all life on Earth.
Recognising ecocide will provide a legal safety rail to deter and prevent the worst harms, strongly encourage adherence to protective regulation and fill gaps left by the existing, fragmented body of environmental laws. It also presents numerous benefits for businesses and financial institutions, in alignment with a sustainable future.
These include: unlocking innovation; stimulating investment in new, regenerative business models; levelling the playing field for sustainable enterprise; stabilising operational and reputational risk; and providing a steer towards more sustainable business practices working with rather than against nature.
Time for governments to stand up
As members of the business and finance community we therefore call the Belgian governments to support the recognition of ecocide at the International Criminal Court and in national legislation, and to positively engage in the growing global conversation to make this a reality.
* Consensus legal definition of ecocide drafted by the Independent Expert Panel, convened by the
Stop Ecocide Foundation. https://www.stopecocide.earth/legal-definition, June 2021
ENDORSING BUSINESSES INCLUDE:
PIVOT POINT REPORT
Race to Zero report acknowledges ecocide law as key driver for climate action.
Ecocide law has been significantly highlighted in the recent Race 2 Zero "Pivot Point" report on the importance of moving from voluntary to regulatory measures to accelerate climate action.
The report, launched to great fanfare during New York Climate Week and the high-level week of the UN General Assembly, at the Climate Action: Race to Zero and Race to Resilience Forum where COP26 and COP27 Climate Champions.
It features a significant section on ecocide law as a "driver and influencer" in this process - see Chapter 7 section (c) of the report (p58).
In its statement to COP27, the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), an investor-led organisation with ‘assets under management’ of $70 trillion, has, for the second year running, called on governments to recognise the crime of ecocide.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR BUSINESS?
When the rules and regulations are clear, businesses can successfully manage risk and plan with confidence. They know where the boundaries of safe practice lie in their duty to maximise profit while maintaining a healthy business - and their investors, insurers and shareholders know it too.
Right now, businesses spearheading sustainable practices are at a competitive disadvantage. Setting a boundary for what is legally and morally acceptable raises best practice, creates a level playing field for sustainable enterprise and rewards those doing the right thing.
Clear parameters unleash creativity. Business will be stimulated to ask the right questions, rebalance demand away from goods created through harmful practices and direct resources and talent towards developing new regenerative business models systems that work in harmony with nature.
When destructive channels are closed, investment and insurance will shift naturally to favour sustainable projects. Policy and best practice will follow suit.
By working with nature rather than against it, business operations will become more efficient and effective.
The new legal framework will encourage tapping into on-the-ground expertise and knowledge in the workforce as new approaches are explored for working in better harmony with nature. Employee commitment, motivation and satisfaction will significantly improve.
Clear responsibilities set out in law will deter climate and environmental injustice at source, providing a guide rail towards greater fairness and a culture of care and ensuring that key decision makers take their responsibilities seriously.
Ecocide law will favour and encourage business models which work in harmony with a thriving, evolving environment, replacing a harsh, destructive economic cycle with a virtuous regenerative one.