Nature is Next: Towards integrating nature-related risks in the Dutch Financial sector


Nature is Next: Towards integrating nature-related risks in the Dutch Financial sector

Nature is declining faster than ever and urgent action is needed to move towards an economy that is in harmony with nature. WWF-NL and Deloitte Netherlands researched how the Dutch financial sector is integrating nature-related risks.

Executive summary

Nature is declining faster than ever. Urgent action is needed to move toward an economy that is in harmony with nature. Several studies and reports have shown that the financial sector, including the Dutch financial sector, depends heavily on ecosystem services provided by nature. At the same time, financial institutions have an impact on nature through their financing and investing activities, such as deforestation and pollution. To ignore these impacts and dependencies on nature invites more than just damage to our natural environment: It threatens the very structure and stability of the global economy. The financial sector has a key role to play and can support a shift in global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes and toward nature-positive ones.

Ripple effect causing risks for financial institutions

Nature loss is affecting all economic sectors, including the financial sector. Nature provides value to our economy and society through ecosystem services, such as clean water and food, but it also offers recreational, spiritual and inspirational value and supports climate regulation. Degradation of ecosystems can result in loss of its services, which in turn can create risks for economic actors, for example, depleted resource stocks, market changes, reputational harm, unsustainable fees, unusable land, severed supply chains and inoperable business models. The ripple effect then impacts the financial institutions that offer finance to their counterparties.

In short, these impacts and dependencies on nature can result in nature-related risks of three types: physical, transitional and systemic. They can lead to financial risks, such as credit, market, liquidity, and operational and strategic risks. At the same time, moving toward an economy that is nature-positive can also result in significant business opportunities, for example through risk-mitigation strategies; offering new products and services, such as nature-based solutions; and making nature a key component of a purpose-led strategy. To avoid significant risks to our economy, and develop opportunities, financial institutions should recognise their impacts and dependencies, understand how these translate to financial risks and opportunities and make sure that nature is part of their strategic agenda.

The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is developing a framework for organisations and financial institutions to act on, manage and disclose the risks and opportunities associated with their own impacts and dependencies on nature. This can help financial institutions understand their interaction with nature – a complex network of interdependent functions and entities. The TNFD also provides guidance on how financial institutions can conduct nature risk assessments and what they should disclose.

Progress in the Dutch financial sector

This report describes a research by WWF-NL and Deloitte Netherlands on how the Dutch financial sector is integrating nature-related risks. Based on a survey, several interviews and a roundtable discussion with Dutch banks and asset managers, the progress in the Dutch financial sector was assessed and several use cases were identified.

The findings show the Dutch financial sector is acknowledging and recognising the importance of its interaction with nature. Multiple initiatives, commitments and publications are already available in the Dutch context, suggesting that Dutch financial institutions could lead in acting upon the interaction of the financial sector with nature. Several key nature-related risks, relevant portfolios and sectors have been identified and the first actions are taken; for example, by creating heatmaps to measure exposure to nature-related risks, integrating nature into organisational governance, making nature part of the strategy and defining qualitative targets. However, for financial institutions, a full overview of material risks and adequate responses at the organisational or industry level is still lacking. Additional action is needed to be able to comprehensively assess, monitor and disclose these risks.

Recommendations to accelerate action

This report presents ten recommendations for financial institutions to accelerate progress in assessing, managing, and disclosing nature-related risks and opportunities across three different dimensions:

Learn: What can you do to achieve progress in your education and improve your understanding of nature-related financial risks?

  • Explore the full scope of nature-related risks by considering all potential impacts and dependencies across the entire range of sectors and counterparties, treating each identified risk as potentially material.
  • Build organisational awareness, knowledge and capabilities related to nature, to catalyse learning across all levels and functions of the financial institution.
  • Seek alignment with emerging standards and frameworks, but ensure that this does not limit the learning journey by always maintaining a purpose-led approach.

Act: What actions can you already take with regard to governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets?

  • Conduct an inventory of all activities being performed internally, considering ongoing developments related to nature, climate and broader sustainability challenges.
  • Establish ownership at the board level and shape governance regarding nature-related risks and opportunities.
  • Choose a material issue and start a small-scale pilot programme to kick-start innovation, involving a cross-functional team with experts from across the financial institution.
  • Develop and maintain a relevant toolkit that can support the actions being taken by periodically evaluating the tools and data sources in scope and exploring novel approaches.

Engage: How can you engage with your stakeholders to strengthen your learning and the actions you are taking?

  • Collaborate with industry peers by exchanging ideas, co-developing new approaches and taking collective action to tackle shared challenges.
  • Start and continue forceful conversations with your counterparties and their stakeholders to establish effective, active ownership and engagement that support counterparties in their journey to becoming nature-positive.
  • Partner with NGOs, academics, governments and other external (local) experts to apply their knowledge, influence and experience to nature-related risks and opportunities.
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