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News article6 December 2023Directorate-General for Environment5 min read

Align bears fruit in shaping the future of biodiversity measurement approaching its final stretch

Align. Aligning accounting approaches for nature

Align – Aligning accounting approaches for nature – is a European Commission-funded project led by WCMC Europe and the Capitals Coalition, with partners Arcadis, ICF and UNEP-WCMC. It focusses on the evolving space of biodiversity measurements, and on the need for guidance and recommendations for corporates. Its primary aim is to provide businesses and financial institutions with guiding principles and a set of clear criteria to help their biodiversity measurement and valuation efforts. Align is also set to pool expertise providing advice to the European Commission on how to improve the enabling environment to help overcome the current challenges faced by corporates in their efforts to account for nature impacts and dependencies.

Two years after Align’s inception, and now nearing the finish line, the project has come a long way. Its strength has largely relied on a diverse and engaged community consisting of over 500 interested stakeholders. Within this community are over 100 proactive business practitioners who are integrating biodiversity into the core of their business models. They are involved by sharing their experiences and best practice to encourage peer-to-peer learning and are helping Align to develop a standardised approach to biodiversity measurement by testing draft guidance and standards and providing feedback to the consortium. Their efforts are supported by more than 120 technical experts leading the development of state-of-the-art measurement practices, technologies, methodologies and frameworks. Their help has proven crucial for identifying and elaborating alignment and synergies between different measurement approaches, and they are contributing crucial expertise for developing standardised biodiversity-inclusive natural capital management accounting practices linking closely with the Transparent project.

The publication of the ‘Recommendations for a standard on corporate biodiversity measurement and valuation’ in December 2022, responded to the urgent need for an agreed set of principles and criteria on what biodiversity elements should be measured, and on how this should be done. These recommendations are now helping corporates to better understand the components of biodiversity their activities should observe. By providing criteria for measurement indicators, and examples of their application, they are supporting their need for wider reporting, target setting and disclosure. Align takes a step back to provide conceptual clarity, and a step forward, guiding businesses on best practice approaches. By working closely with the developers of the standards emerging from Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Taskforce for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures framework (TNFD) and other emerging initiatives, Align is bring this clarity, consistency and alignment to the range of disclosure requirements that are emerging on biodiversity measurement.

Alongside this key publication, Align delivered a series of sectoral seminars on an ongoing basis, covering areas including finance, agri-food, construction, energy, utilities, chemicals, and the apparel sector, to help different areas of the economy to share best practices and understand what they can do to step up their biodiversity measurement efforts.

Further detail on the application of the recommendations has also been developed covering crucial areas. Firstly, a ‘Primer for businesses measuring ecosystem condition’ was designed to build on the recommendations, and to complement guidance developed by specific initiatives and standards such as the TNFD. By describing the biotic and abiotic components needed to measure ecosystem condition, and by covering the measurement approaches, this primer guides businesses, helping them meet the emerging disclosure requirements and to contribute to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets.

Two further implementation guidance documents were developed for measuring and valuing biodiversity at a site level and across supply chains. The implementation guidance for site level operations brings the Align recommendations to life by outlining the decision-making contexts and the suitability of different measurement approaches through a series of fictional case studies. Similarly, the implementation guidance for supply chains provides context on spatial scales and concrete examples of relevant approaches and tools available for companies whose impacts sit largely within their supply chains to measure their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity. Both guidance documents are designed to illustrate the possible measurement methodologies available to companies and sit under the framework of the recommendations to ensure they maximise synergies with other initiatives and requirements.

The Align team’s mission of course does not end here, and more work is underway to provide guidance across the EU’s economic landscape and beyond. In the coming months, the project will develop and test its recommendations for financial institutions providing specific guidance for the sector in close collaboration with key finance sector initiatives such as the Partnership Biodiversity Accounting Financials (PBAF) and others. This guidance will provide examples of the practical application of the recommendations, showing good and best practice for different financial institutions and activities, and pointing to appropriate measurement approaches and tools.

Align also picks up on the need expressed by businesses and financial institutions to better understand how their contributions can help achieve the goal of nature positive. Consensus is emerging on the need for robust measurement to demonstrate attainment of a nature positive goal, and Align is working with initiatives active on nature-positive to recommend what and how to measure against a nature-positive commitment. The project also sets itself to respond to important question-marks remaining around the role of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in driving more harmonized biodiversity assessments and reporting. It is clear that actions by the private sector are key in delivering the GBF goals. But, to ensure this happens effectively and efficiently, it is important to provide guidance to ensure businesses have clarity on how current available measurement frameworks are aligned with the GBF. Align has initiated further research addressing these knowledge gaps. The results of this will be launched by the end of Q2 2024.

Moving forward, Align is working with its stakeholders to identify measurement and valuation challenges and areas where research and innovation can provide solutions. It will also identify the key training and education capabilities that companies must acquire in the immediate future to successfully implement best practice in the coming new age of biodiversity measurement and accounting. This analysis will serve to inform policy

Don’t miss any of its further developments, stay tuned to the newsletter learn about our next publications. Visit the published reports or learn about how to become part of the Align community by visiting the Align website.



Publication date
6 December 2023
Directorate-General for Environment