Biodiversity & brands – a #ProvenanceLive recap

Aecom speaking with Avallen on Provenance.org
Image credit: Aecom has set up a Natural Capital Laboratory (NCL) to test new techniques to quantify, measure and communicate environmental and social change.

This Wednesday was World Earth Day, so we focused our digital meetup on the topic of biodiversity. It’s increasingly on the agenda of some of the world’s largest companies, but it’s also now making headlines for its connection to global pandemics. What is biodiversity and what does it mean for brands, their ingredients and their overarching impact? Here’s what we learned…


From a poll off the back of our latest talk on packaging, the Provenance community voted up the topic of ingredients and environmental impact for our digital Q&A series, #ProvenanceLive, which runs Wednesday at 5pm GMT. 

To bring insights from different perspectives, we were joined by Robert Spencer, Head of Sustainable Development for Aecom, an infrastructure firm driving global projects in the space and Tim Etherington-Judge, co-founder of Avallen Spirits who are leading a cocktail movement for the bees.

What is biodiversity?

“Biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth. It includes all species of animals and plants – everything that is alive on our planet. Biodiversity is important for its own sake, and human survival depends upon it.“ – Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs UK (DEFRA)

Our key takeaways

  • Biodiversity is about creating resilience in natural ecosystems, crucially important for food security.
  • If you can measure it, you can manage it. ‘Natural capital’ assessments can help you understand what you’ve got, from trees or wildlife on your land to other resources. This was once something only ecologists dealt with, but now we’re seeing financial directors accounting for nature as assets – an addition to the balance sheet.
  • Diversity within a species is crucially important. Tim tells the story of single species of bees overworking apple trees whereas different bees pollinate and work the trees in a more balanced way.
  • We have to integrate nature decisions into our business decisions. We once thought it best to seal them off, but an integrated, holistic approach is the way forward for brands.
  • Transparency is key to building trust with customers and building an authentic story about your impact on natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Re-wilding can be very effective. Robert is now leading a project to measure and compute the biodiversity net-gain you can get from re-wilding efforts.

Top questions

Q:  Why is biodiversity important?

A:  “The more rich and diverse a habitat is, the more able it is to remain and come back from a shock. In other words – to be resilient. That means that any productivity systems that we have relying on that will also recover more quickly.” – Robert

A: “To give you some of the kind of live examples from the orchard: The reason that so many different varieties of apples are used is… to create that resilience. It’s to extend the growth of blossom and harvest season, and protect against weather.” – Tim

Q:  How does a company measure biodiversity and truly put it on the balance sheet?

A: “The simple answer is to hire an ecologist… You’re looking for species richness, you’re looking for species diversity, so lots of different species, and you’re looking for a good even distribution.” – Robert

Q: What would your advice be for a brand who’s looking at first for the first time and doesn’t really know where to start and how to be authentic?

A: “I think two things: Understanding where your brand and your product impacts biodiversity. And every single product does because everything is made of raw material. At some level – and whether it’s bees in the orchards, or tropical rainforests or plastic in the oceans – at some point. And then I think the second part is being completely transparent.” – Tim

Watch the full recording


🙌Next up: We’re having a founder-to-founder Q&A on how brands can have a more positive social impact. Sign up to join our founder, Jessi Baker, as she speaks with Sana Jardin and PurEarth about supporting local communities and NGOs through your ingredient sourcing.