This article was originally published on Nature


Action on soil sustainability must move beyond the farm and into the boardroom, urges Jess Davies.

“Nobody likes dirty business, but the business world must get to grips with dirt. Soil provides food, fibres and fuels, and regulates water resources and climate. Yet most businesses are unaware that their bottom lines depend on soil; nor are they aware of the risks they face from its degradation. More must recognize that improving soil quality is a smart investment.

One-third of all soils and more than half of agricultural soils are moderately or highly degraded. Erosion, loss of organic carbon, compaction and salinization reduce soil’s fertility and ability to hold moisture1. Every year, we damage another 12 million hectares — an area the size of Bulgaria — through deforestation, overgrazing, intensive farming, urbanization and pollution2. Climate change and biodiversity loss exacerbate soil problems. Yet global needs for food and resources are rising as populations grow, lifestyles shift and the world transitions to a low-carbon economy.

Many businesses in the agricultural and forestry arenas, and some in the food sector, describe the measures they’ve taken to reduce soil impacts in their sustainability reports. Most others do not. Soil is vital to all industries that use plant or animal products in their supply chains, from fashion to pharmaceuticals and, increasingly, energy. Insurers and investors have a stake — when crops fail, they lose money, commodity prices rise and operations are disrupted.

…Companies need to assess how much their operations and value chains depend on soils. Metrics and tools should be developed and integrated into reporting frameworks such as the GRI, as well as into ‘natural capital’ approaches for assessing environmental business risks (such as the Natural Capital Protocol, launched in 2016 by a coalition of more than 200 leading organizations)…”

Read on at: Nature.