03 May 2022 2 min read

Biodiversity: more than mere numbers

By Lewis Pugh

Biodiversity used to be about abundance. Now it is about loss.


We all know the numbers – 70% of species gone in the last half century, through habitat loss, climate change, human greed and thoughtlessness.

But this is more than a numbers game. There is no such thing as ‘acceptable loss’ when the very fabric of life is being undone.

Everything is connected. When a species is taken out of an ecosystem – whether a keystone one like wolves, an apex predator like a Great White Shark, or a community of polyps that make up a coral reef – it undoes these fine threads of connection.

Think of a cosy sweater that you've worn for years. One you love for the comfort it gives you, the buffer against the cold, how it's taken on your shape over time. Occasionally you might snag it on something. A thread pulls; that's okay, you can catch it and fix it.

If you don't fix it, however, if you keep on wearing it, or fail to notice the gaping hole where the weave has come loose, over time the spaces between threads become so numerous that the jersey is reduced to a clump of useless strands. It offers no protection, and is no longer recognisable as a garment.

This is what we do to ecosystems by taking out species – either intentionally or through wilful neglect. This is why biodiversity – a rich diverse numerous interwoven connected web of life – is so very important.

I am so happy that LGIM is supporting our call for 30% of the oceans to be protected by 2030.

Biodiversity gives strength and resilience. Its loss is nothing short of devastating.

Radical ownership is active ownership

For some time now I've been talking about radical ownership. What I mean by that is each of us taking responsibility for our actions and the impact they have on the intricate and interconnected web of life around us.

When I read LGIM's latest Active Ownership Report I was struck by one particular phrase: “putting responsibility before reticence, sustainability before silence”.

This is not a time for timid compliance, but for bold action.

For LGIM, 'Active Ownership' means engaging with companies, industry peers and policy makers to tackle systemic issues.

It means speaking up, and changing course where necessary. It means taking responsibility for our actions, and our investments.

The natural world depends on biodiversity, and so does business. More than half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is either moderately or highly dependent on nature. One in five companies globally face significant operational risks as a result of collapsing ecosystems.

LGIM recognises that biodiversity loss presents a major global systemic risk.


Up to a million species are now threatened with extinction.

That is too many for us to keep in mind; the number has become incomprehensible. But the risk is not: ultimately what is at stake is life on earth.

We must not allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed. Just remember that every action has a consequence. Everything we do can either help or hinder this planet.

It is clear that we have to take action as individuals. But it is even more important to hold to account companies, organisations and governments that have the power and influence to protect entire ecosystems.

Together, we'll find strength in numbers.


Listen to our Active ownership podcast; available on Apple, Spotify and our website

Lewis Pugh

Endurance swimmer and the UN Patron of the Oceans

Lewis Pugh swims in the most vulnerable ecosystems on Earth to call for their protection. He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world. He was also the first to swim across the North Pole and the first to swim the full length of the English Channel. Lewis has been instrumental in protecting over two million km² of vulnerable ocean – an area larger than Western Europe. At LGIM, we are united with Lewis in our aim to tackle the climate crisis. We believe inaction is not an option and are proud to support Lewis’ efforts to raise awareness and push for positive change.

Lewis Pugh