15. Life on Land

How business leadership can advance Goal 15 on Life on Land

Terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems are under immense pressure as challenges including biodiversity loss, land degradation and illicit wildlife trade mount. Many biodiversity hotspots, including savannahs, grasslands, and tropical rainforests, are under heightened threat from activities linked to global supply chains. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states that biodiversity is the foundation on which human lives depend. Biodiverse ecosystems not only provide essential goods including food, water, fibre, and medicines, but also irreplaceable services such as the regulation of disease and the purification of air and water.

Business should, at a minimum, respect applicable environmental laws governing pollution, land-use, and life on land. Responsible business practice also adopts and integrates international standards that have been developed to support the core principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol. Crucially, these international standards recognize that natural resources are not infinite, and that genetic resources should be shared equitably

There is significant scope for business leadership on Goal 15. Leadership involves understanding and valuing natural ecosystems, ensuring that activities across internal operations and the value chain contribute to protecting ecosystems, and innovating and providing finance for preservation and enhancement of ecosystems. To achieve this, they can adopt the highest environmental standards and implement procedures to protect natural ecosystems that are affected by business and supply chain activities, including land remediation and rehabilitation, and habitat protection and restoration. They are encouraged to do so through multi-stakeholder partnerships and standards where they can. As drivers of innovation, companies can commit to research, development and deployment of new technologies to help decouple economic activity from the degradation of natural ecosystems. Businesses can lead by galvanizing finance to create awareness, protect, and further develop natural ecosystems. Furthermore, current economic structures tend to undervalue natural ecosystems leading to the disproportionate conversion of these systems for agricultural or urban development uses. Businesses can play a key role in developing and adopting natural capital accounting protocol to correct for this.

Healthy natural ecosystems are foundational to many business activities and caring for them can deliver huge benefits to companies. Natural ecosystems that provide critical services to business and the business environment include food provision, water purification, hazard protection and nitrogen regulation. Forests and other highly biodiverse and carbon rich ecosystems have an irreplaceable role in air purification and carbon sequestration, which improves health outcomes for workers and boosts economic productivity. Forests also play a fundamental role in regulating the water systems on which businesses and employees rely. Natural ecosystems host a large amount of genetic and energy-related resources which have long-term medicinal, scientific and agricultural uses.

Since natural biomes are highly interlinked, action on Goal 15, such as the preservation of forests, can strongly contribute to Goal 13 on climate action and to Goal 14 on life below water. It can also directly contribute to ensuring that there is responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). Furthermore, action on Goal 15 can help reduce poverty and inequality (Goals 1 and 10). The rural poor rely on natural ecosystems for their daily needs. When the services provided from ecosystems are disrupted, the disadvantaged lack the means to replace them. With proper management, thriving ecosystems offers a path out of poverty. Preserving natural ecosystems also supports the natural mechanisms of disease control and the genetic resources that are critical for the discovery of new medicines; which can help advance Goal 3 on good health and well-being.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 15? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Intentionality is a key aspect of protecting life on land. A commitment in corporate strategy and top-level leadership can motivate employees, and can be used to communicate the strategic objective to suppliers to ensure respect and support for biodiversity in the wider supply chain.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 15?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action to protect life on land requires minimizing and ultimately negating a company’s impact on natural ecosystems. It involves innovation across business activities and the value chain to decouple economic activity from the degradation of natural capital

  • Is support for Goal 15 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 15?

Key Considerations

Consistency requires the company to have incentive structures that promote the protection of natural capital across all business functions. A natural capital accounting protocol which values ecosystem degradation and is reflected on financial accounts is a system that encourages consistent behavior

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 15?

Key Considerations

Collaboration to protect natural ecosystems requires working with members of the supply chain to build capacity and ensure that they can also undertake measures to protect life on land. It requires working closely with government authorities and scientific bodies to understand key conservation priorities

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 15?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Accountability is critical to the protection of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems. Business actions to protect these ecosystems should be measurable and verifiable. The impact of business activities on ecosystems should be continually monitored and accounted for, with meaningful engagement with impacted communities to minimize risks of negative impact

Business Actions


Protect natural ecosystems


Prevent degradation of natural ecosystems


Finance the protection of natural ecosystems


Value and respect natural capital

How taking action on Goal 15 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Protecting terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems contributes directly to climate action (Goal 13) by preserving natural carbon sinks and helping ensure responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). Since many communities, especially rural communities, rely on natural ecosystems for their livelihoods, action to protect these ecosystems also helps reduce poverty and inequalities (Goals 1 and 10). A close link between life on land and life below water means that Goal 14 also benefits from action to preserve life on land. Preserving natural ecosystems facilitates provision of the natural mechanisms of disease control and the genetic resources that are critical for the discovery of new medicines; this can help advance Goal 3 on good health and well-being.

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

There may be trade-offs in the short term between protecting terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems, and pursuing economic growth or infrastructure development (Goals 8 and 9). For example, current accounting methods may show that it is more valuable to transform a forested area into an apartment block. However, this trade-off may disappear if ecosystem services are valued appropriately

Goal 15 Targets

Targets of Goal 15

  1. Ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services
  2. Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forest, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and increase afforestation and reforestation globally
  3. Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
  4. Ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity
  5. Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
  6. Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed
  7. Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products
  8. Introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems
  9. Integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts