The global finance sector is hyper-focused on enabling better environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes for business, leveraging its influence to make more environmentally minded investment decisions, encourage more corporate action and enable progress at scale. Recently, there’s been a particularly heavy emphasis on biodiversity, which has become one of the hottest topics on the global ESG agenda.

In this push, the finance sector needs more transparency and visibility into the biodiversity-related impacts of business. A new report authored by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), in partnership with Maxar, outlines how geospatial technologies can play a differentiating role in helping deliver the data and ground truth insights needed to validate corporate biodiversity performance.

The report, titled “The Biodiversity Data Puzzle,” published today. It provides for the first time an in-depth exploration of how geospatial imagery and analytics can be used to measure nature-related impacts of business and recommends several action items to help better leverage these technologies to drive progress. Maxar served as the technical contributor for the remote sensing industry, helping define the various use cases and applications.

We encourage you to read the report in full here.

To bring this topic to life, we are highlighting three examples of how geospatial technology is being used today to better measure and support biodiversity initiatives. Though not examples from the finance sector, these stories underscore the value of Earth observation in monitoring biodiversity impacts of business and society.

1. Wildlife population mapping

Image credit: University of Oxford & University of Bath

Maxar’s technology has been used by partners around the world to help map wildlife populations, particularly vulnerable species that are being impacted by climate change. For example, researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Oxford in the U.K. used Maxar’s imagery and their custom algorithms to detect elephants from space with comparable accuracy to human detection capabilities.

Other researchers have used similar approaches to count whale populations, particularly in remote parts of the ocean. We’ve also engaged in initiatives that showcase the power of making geospatial data available to the public. For the past two years, we’ve partnered with WWF and the British Antarctic Survey (BAF) in a crowdsourcing effort to detect and count walrus populations in the Arctic, leveraging our GeoHIVE platform.

These initiatives are all inspiring examples of how geospatial data can help support wildlife management and conservation efforts.

2. Mapping natural habitats around the world

Image credit: Jane Goodall Institute

Geospatial data can provide important insights into the health of critical natural habitats such as forests, mangroves and more. Long-time Maxar Purpose Partner, Jane Goodall Institute, uses Maxar imagery to map forest habitats in Uganda that are critical to the survival of chimpanzees and to the health of local communities. This land has historically been heavily affected by logging, agriculture, mining and development activities, and through a series of mapathons, Maxar mapped about 9,000 sq km of forest in the region, identifying wooded areas, roads and other important markers. Maxar has helped other customers and organizations with similar efforts in Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

3. Monitoring specific impacts of human activity

This Maxar WorldView-2 image shows the MV Wakashio ship on August 12, 2020, after it ran aground and started leaking oil on Mauritius.

Geospatial data can be particularly useful in providing transparency around the impacts of human activity, both for specific events and activity over time. For example, Maxar has previously made geospatial data available to nonprofit organizations and others to help with remediation efforts for events like oil spills. Space-based imagery can help stakeholders understand how these events impact local wildlife populations or habitats, helping identify risks that require close attention. Maxar has also helped organizations like our Purpose Partner, Amazon Conservation Team, monitor illegal mining in the Amazon rainforest, mapping new activity and providing authorities with insights on when and where they need to take action. Additionally, Maxar’s WeatherDesk developed a way using high performance compute to create weather forecasts 58% faster than the NOAA supercomputer, and these more timely insights can enable humans to take action to prevent or lessen potentially harmful impacts on nature.

These are just a few examples of how geospatial technologies are helping monitor nature-related impacts of climate change and human activity today, and they provide inspiration for how sectors like finance can apply these technologies to better achieve their ESG and climate ambitions.

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