Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are the keystone of life on Earth. Restoring and protecting nature will be critical to ensure it continues to sustain us.
From the deepest oceans to unchartered rainforest canopies, the animals, landscapes, and ecosystems surrounding us, and the trillions of microorganisms within us. This vast and complex interconnected web is nature; we would not exist without it.
Photo Credit: Bob Brewer, Mike Erskine, Ryan Schroeder
We know that spending time in nature is good for our health and well-being, reducing stress, improving our mental health, physical exercise and enhancing our overall quality of life.
Over the past few centuries, humans have profoundly impacted nature. Industrialisation, deforestation, pollution, resource overexploitation and habitat destruction have disrupted ecosystems, driven species extinctions, altered climate patterns, and degraded the overall health and resilience of the natural world. According to the UN, about 40% of the world’s population is already adversely affected by nature loss and degradation.
Moreover, our economies have ignored all that nature does for us, including providing essential services like sequestering carbon, preserving biodiversity, pollination, delivering clean air and water, and natural flood management (the list goes on). Even today, economists struggle to put a price on the economic benefits of nature.
Governments and businesses are starting to recognise the importance of nature in decision-making and policy discussion. From here, the concept of ‘nature recovery’ has emerged, building on terms like “rewilding” and “regeneration” It emphasises the need to restore and protect natural habitats and biodiversity and promote ecological resilience to ensure the long-term health of functioning ecosystems.
Below are some of the basic principles of nature recovery:
1. Conserve, protect and restore: safeguard existing ecosystems to ensure long-term vitality, for example, establishing national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and marine protected areas and restoring degraded lands through reforestation, species reintroductions and regenerative agriculture.
2. Enhance connectivity: create and maintain ecological corridors that connect fragmented habitats. This helps animals move between habitats, maintains genetic diversity, and enhances ecosystem resilience.
3. Sustainable land and water management: adopt practices that reduce negative impacts on ecosystems, including agroforestry, responsible fishing techniques and land-use planning.
4. Engage and empower communities: participatory processes activate all stakeholders, including those that have been historically excluded, like local communities and indigenous peoples. Not only does this ensure that efforts align with local knowledge, needs and priorities, but it recognises and empowers these communities as the true custodians of nature.
5. Legislation and governance: supportive policy, regulation and incentives are needed to drive nature recovery and hold businesses accountable. This includes support for nature-based solutions and promoting cooperation and collaboration between governments, businesses, organisations, and communities.
How can businesses step up to support nature recovery?
Nature’s intrinsic value is priceless, but besides the moral imperative, it makes sound sense for businesses to be proactive for nature.
As the conservationist, David Brower liked to say, “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”
There are many pathways for businesses that want to demonstrate their support for nature recovery and restoration. From adopting sustainable sourcing practices to supporting farmers to adopt biodiversity-friendly practices like regenerative and organic agriculture, businesses can ensure their supply chains support responsible methods of raw material utilisation.
A great example of businesses taking sustainable sourcing into their own hands is Dr Bronner’s. The family-owned and run, certified B Corporation soap maker sources 100% of its palm oil directly from Serendipalm, a sister company in Ghana that works exclusively with small-scale organic family farms that use organic and regenerative practices.
Efforts to improve sourcing practices can also go a long way to improving supply chains’ overall traceability and transparency. Similarly, certification has always been an excellent tool for businesses to show their commitment to responsible sourcing and promoting positive social and environmental impacts. Many certifications standards are ingrained in protecting nature, from B Corp to Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and 1% for the Planet.
One standard that mainly focuses on promoting healthy and resilient ecosystems comes from the Regenerative Organic Alliance. This standard was piloted in 2019, with 19 farms worldwide producing everything from dairy to mangoes, coconut and cereal grains. It focuses on healthy soils, which are the basis of all healthy ecosystems – food-producing or otherwise, and promotes practices such as cover cropping, crop rotations, composting, and zero chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
Businesses can also directly support conservation and restoration efforts by collaborating with existing environmental organisations or developing their corporate conservation initiatives.
On a global mission to do good is consumer goods juggernaut Unilever. From committing to deforestation-free supply chains by 2023 to net zero emissions for all its products by 2039, the list of commitments is long. Getting there is certainly no minor undertaking for a company with an agricultural footprint nearly twice the size of Wales. In 2020, the company made clear that it would support its sustainability endeavours through a flagship €1bn Climate and Nature fund.
Since its launch, Unilever has started work with Conservation International through its’ Dove brand to conserve and restore over 20,000 hectares of forest in North Sumatra, Indonesia. These forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, home to orangutans, Sumatran tigers and elephants. This is just the beginning of Unilever’s overarching goal: to contribute to the restoration of 1.5 million hectares of nature by 2030.
Beyond demonstrating environmental stewardship, adopting such initiatives can enhance a company’s reputation, attract conscious consumers, and underpin long-term business resilience.
So, what are our leaders saying?
Last year representatives from over 190 national governments gathered in Montreal for the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15). There, they adopted the Global Biodiversity Framework, which aims to “half and reverse biodiversity loss to put nature on a path to recovery for the benefit of people and planet by conserving and sustainably using biodiversity”.
The global targets for the GBF include a landmark goal to protect at least 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030. The “30×30” target has been hailed as a bold vision to save the natural world.
Some scientists say that the “30×30” target doesn’t go far enough and that we should aim to protect 50% of our ecosystems. But with just 17% of land and 8% of marine areas currently under protection, urgent action is needed at every level, from the grassroots to local planning, national legislation, and bold international corporation.
Key to reaching these ambitious goals will be mobilising investments for nature.
In the UK, DEFRA has set a target for private investment into nature recovery to meet at least £500 million per year by 2027 and reach over £1 billion per year by 2030 in England. DEFRA recently released the Green Finance Strategy to attract investment and the Nature Markets Framework to support scaling up nature recovery programmes.
This builds on the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan, which sets out plans to deliver on critical environmental goals relating to thriving ecosystems, clear air and water, managing chemicals, responsible resource utilisation and mitigating risks. Ultimately the goals and targets underline the UK’s efforts to support 30X30 and progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Here’s what we have to say:
With us spending more time indoors, in offices and in cities, as a population, we need to foster an emotional connection and love for nature more than ever. To do this requires expertise from the best and most ambitious creative and strategic talent – to reconnect and re-prioritise our love for the natural world we depend on.
At our core, we prioritise nature and take pride in collaborating with clients who share the same commitment. One of our long-term clients, Belmont Estate, is dedicated to land regeneration, reversing biodiversity loss, and fostering connections between communities and nature. We recently partnered with them on a campaign titled “How does nature make you feel?” Watch the campaign video below.
Nature recovery is crucial for mitigating climate change and ensuring a sustainable future for future generations. We must prioritise connecting with nature, as we bear a collective responsibility to be responsible ancestors for the well-being of our livelihoods and the diverse species that have evolved over millions of years. By promoting nature recovery, we can also minimise the effects of climate change and safeguard the planet for the benefit of future generations.