You can't grow food on dead land

Posted on 12 Jun 2023
Powerful coalitions of more than 90 corporations from across the EU make the business case for the new law to restore nature
  • More than 90 businesses from Nestlé to Unilever and IKEA warn MEPs not to betray farmers facing the unprecedented collapse of our ecosystems and climate change. 
  • “Rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50% by 2050 if we don’t intervene. Nature restoration and food security are interdependent – we rely on nature for producing our raw materials.” a Nestlé spokesperson said.
  • “Protecting and restoring nature in Europe will reduce the damages from climate change and biodiversity collapse while bringing new business opportunities,” said a spokesperson from Ecopreneur.
  • The centre right EPP stands accused of being bad for business by "endangering our and future generations' livelihoods" by walking out of negotiations and branding the law ‘red tape’.

More than 90 of Europe’s biggest businesses spanning consumer, finance, and energy, including Nestlé, Unilever, and IKEA are speaking out today to save the Nature Restoration Law on business grounds. The ENVI committee (European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) will vote on this embattled legislation on 15 June.

Nestlé, Danone, Bel, Rémy Cointreau and SPAR are among 58 businesses which have co-signed a statement calling for the urgent adoption of an ambitious and legally-binding EU Nature Restoration Law to bring nature back to Europe”, arguing that we are all shareholders in nature. 

This comes as another coalition of 48 corporations including Unilever and IKEA have signed an open letter warning that “businesses and financial institutions depend on nature and have a vital role to play in conserving and restoring nature and transitioning to a nature-positive economy. Action at the scale and speed necessary can only take place if supported by ambitious environmental policies and regulations that transform our economic, fiscal, and legislative systems”.

Bart Vandewaetere, VP ESG Engagement, Nestlé Europe said: When nature is under pressure, our food systems are under pressure. For example: rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50% by 2050 if we don’t intervene. Nature restoration and food security are interdependent – we rely on nature for producing our raw materials.

“Implementation of the EU nature restoration law could accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture in Europe and generate benefits for farmers and their livelihoods and environment, improving soil health, restoring water cycles and increasing biodiversity. The adoption of this law must ensure that more funding is directed to farmers to help them restore nature through their day to day work.”

The Nature Restoration Law proposes to have restoration measures in place on at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and repair all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050, to enable the long-term and sustained recovery and resilience of biodiversity and nature. Biodiversity is key to food security - making crops more resilient to pests and diseases, as well as climate change.

These businesses now join farmers, hunters, and scientists warning of the economic consequences if MEPs fail to pass the Nature Restoration Law, which would be the first European-wide legislation to set legally binding targets for national governments to restore our degraded ecosystems.

Ernest Mas, fruit farmer from Tarragona, Spain, said: “There are many people who think that sustainability costs money. We should also think about whether being unsustainable costs us money. There are fewer and fewer players in the agricultural sector. There are players who are becoming very big but they are also very disconnected from the land and nature. We must produce, we must feed people, but we must do it in a way where we do not put nature in checkmate.”

As the EPP is expected to vote down the legislation following the group's departure from the negotiations on the 30th of May, the law and the future of Europe’s nature hangs in the balance.

Anders Tivell, forester from Closer-to-Nature Forestry, Tiveden National Park, Sweden said: “Biodiversity is not a consideration because I have to be nice to nature, biodiversity is the tool and the insurance for me to have a healthy forest. I am scared of the politicians who are trying to convince us that we can continue living the way we did before. This is why the law is important. We must have it. Because we don’t get it from Sweden - we need support from Europe to push our government - it is important.”

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office, said: “Progressive businesses join a long list of stakeholders calling for a strong Nature Restoration Law, including citizens, NGOs, the scientific community and other business networks. The Members of the European Parliament and EU Member States must listen to these calls and deliver legislation that Europe desperately needs, fit for tackling both nature and climate crises. Despite shameful attempts to present nature restoration as the enemy of farmers, fishers or renewable energy development, this statement is a reminder that we all need resilient ecosystems for our economic activities, human health and the planet.”

MEP Maria Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (RENEW), Shadow rapporteur for the Nature Restoration Law, said:  "The nature restoration law is a crucial step in restoring vulnerable habitats and species’ population across Europe. But in doing so, we can not only bring nature back into its former glory, but also increase the resilience of our food production systems, while also achieving many other benefits for our society.  It is disheartening to see the position adopted by the EPP aligned with ECR and the extreme right, ID, opposing this law. They are breaking the von der Leyen majority that has been operating in Parliament over the years and whose programme has been the Green Deal. The Nature Restoration Law is a fundamental pillar of the Green Deal."

As corporations, business networks, farmers and activists join forces to explain why the bottom line is a green one, those opposing the Nature Restoration law on the centre right stand accused of being bad for business as well as the environment.


© Ola Jennersten / WWF