Leading the conversation
Now is the time for UK business to join the Get Nature Positive journey.
The Council for Sustainable Business (CSB) is a group of business leaders appointed by DEFRA who are committed to developing successful businesses and enhancing nature – and who believe the two objectives go hand-in-hand.
Its purpose is to act as a sounding board for ministers and as ‘environmental champions’ within the business community.
The aim of the Nature Handbook for Business – think of it as a toolkit – is to showcase some of the ways businesses in various sectors can and are becoming more nature positive, helping the planet but also ultimately helping companies’ long-term financial sustainability. They also serve as further examples of how good business actively contributes to the general well-being of all parts of society.
The handbook now has seven complete chapters. We do not claim that the impacts or solutions we’ve presented – with help from a wide range of experts from NGOs, academia, government, and business – are exhaustive or perfect – or that we have all the definitions and ‘nature positive’ metrics that we need.
This will come but nature can’t wait – we need urgent action now. We hope the handbook will act as a conversation-starter in your business that leads to action.
Please sign up to joining the Get Nature Positive journey so that we can share future updates and new information; invite you to sector roundtables with experts, and come together to demonstrate the business communities’ collective focus on protecting and restoring nature.
The changes that we make now can deliver huge environmental and commercial benefits in the long term.
We hope this handbook adds to the richness of your own company’s conversations!
CEO and Co-Founder, Responsible Travel
CEO, Severn Trent
Ministerial foreword to the Nature Handbook for Business
The Council for Sustainable Business was established in 2018 to help the Government deliver our ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan and has provided an abundance of good ideas and fantastic initiatives.
This new initiative, Get Nature Positive, is critically important, and we enthusiastically support it.
Although we too often act as if it were not the case, our economies are fundamentally embedded within the natural world, not external to it. Every business relies on nature for resources such as food, water, and minerals, and to provide essential services like water filtration, waste control and climate regulation. Nature is by far our most valuable asset. However, that extraordinary global portfolio has been appallingly mismanaged, and nature is consequently under huge strain. That in turn means the health of our economy is under threat as well.
So, when we invest our time and resources in nature’s recovery we are protecting this priceless asset not just for this generation but for future generations too.
And by restoring nature we are also helping to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon emissions; protecting biodiversity; reducing the risk of flooding and buffering us against other extreme weather events.
This government recognises the scale of the significant task before us to tackle climate change and restore nature but we are committed to putting nature on the road to recovery. Our landmark Environment Bill puts the environment at the heart of all Government policy-making and will deliver a truly ambitious programme of improvement, including a world-leading target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.
But Government cannot do this alone. Every sector of society must play its part – including business.
And that is why this campaign is so critically important. It will help give UK business leaders the tools they need to restore nature and play their part in delivering on the UK’s ambition to reach Net Zero by 2050.
As we build back greener from the pandemic, the Nature Handbook seeks to address the defining challenge of our age and has the capacity to become a significant part of the solution. I urge all business leaders to heed its advice and sign up now. And as the UK hosts the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, there is no better time to take action.
Minister for the Pacific and the Environment
Domestic Environment and Nature Recovery Minister
Nature Positive 2030 is the global goal to halt and reverse the catastrophic loss of nature worldwide.
Today, the natural world is being degraded faster than at any other time in human history. Many of the world’s tropical rainforests, coral reefs, coastal wetlands and other life-sustaining ecosystems, are at the brink of collapse.
Extinction rates are now between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the baseline rate and are accelerating. The devastating impacts of emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19 will be just the tip of the iceberg if we continue our current trajectory.
But the degradation of our planet is not just an environmental issue, it also presents serious, and often overlooked, global economic and financial risks. Nature gives us food to eat and air to breath; it regulates our climate, controls disease, decomposes waste and provides opportunities for recreation and spiritual fulfilment. Everything we do relies on Nature’s processes, and yet we continue to undermine its productivity, resilience and adaptability, in turn fuelling extreme uncertainty for our economies. Current estimates of our total impact on Nature suggest that maintaining our unsustainable production and consumption practices would require 1.6 Earths. Business as usual is no longer an option.
At the heart of the problem lies the fact that our economies do not account for Nature’s worth to society. Our impact on Nature is difficult to trace, and without scrutiny can go unaccounted for. This has led us to invest comparatively little in the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and their biodiversity, while at the same time continuing to fund activities harmful to Nature. Ultimately, we need to increase the value we attach to Nature and account for it in our economic decision-making.
Transformative change is required to redefine our relationship with Nature, before it is too late. All levels of society, from individual citizens to businesses to international financial institutions, have a role to play.
The challenge is immense, but the actions documented in this Handbook demonstrate both that change is possible, and that the private sector has an essential role to play. Businesses globally have stepped up to invest in the conservation of our natural world, and work is already underway to develop the governance structures and metrics necessary to allow firms to better measure their environmental dependencies and impacts. Much of this work is in its early stages.
But with many ecosystems already degraded beyond repair, or at imminent risk of reaching potentially catastrophic ‘tipping points’, it is important that we do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Fighting fires demands first a brisk appraisal of relative dangers to the terrain – fine tuning comes later.
This Handbook will act as a basis for conversations in boardrooms around the world, and in turn, catalyse the change that is urgently required to protect the ecosystems on which we all rely. Our economies, businesses and very existence are embedded within Nature, and our actions must recognise and reflect that, before it is too late.
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta
Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge
Investors’ increasingly want to work with organisations that don’t just comply with environmental regulations but show genuine leadership in their operations and supply chains to become nature positive.
At the Environment Agency we’re looking into a range of nature-based solutions as an advisor to industries we regulate. Activities that lock in carbon – like tree planting, restoring peatland, managing soils, wetlands and saltmarsh – offer decarbonising opportunities and create resilience to flood risk, support biodiversity, and provide health and wellbeing benefits to communities.
Last year, along with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Defra and Triodos Bank UK, we launched four projects that will help the private sector understand how to scale-up activities that support the natural world. One project is restoring peatlands in the Pennines. The Moors for the Future Partnership is working to conserve peatland which filters water, meaning water companies use less chemical treatment, while slowing the flow, reducing downstream flood risk, and storing carbon, helping to reach net zero.
We have also worked with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and others on the IGNITION project’s Living Lab at the University of Salford. This is trialling rain gardens, green roofs and sustainable-urban-drainage-systems in order to provide data that will help develop robust business models for investment.
And, through our flood work, we are also working on the government’s £150 million flood innovation programme to put new ideas to the test. In Stockton-on-Tees, we are creating new habitats, like saltmarshes, enabling developers to invest in nature and contribute to local economic regeneration by better protecting coastal communities.
This Handbook provides advice for businesses on how to protect and restore the natural environment. Get it right and the benefits will multiply far beyond your corporate scorecard. I hope it will help your company speed up its approach to becoming nature positive.
Emma Howard Boyd
Chair of the Environment Agency
Nature Positive 2030 is the goal to halt and then reverse the catastrophic loss of nature worldwide.
It’s a fundamental part of taking action on climate and of achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050.
Business has great power to do good. No nature. No business. It is that simple. There is no time to waste.
There are simple steps we can all take to assess impact, take action where needed and start to restore the natural resources on which we all depend.
As UK Net Zero business champion I have seen the tremendous work businesses are already doing with customers, employees, and suppliers on climate. Joining our mission to Get Nature Positive and taking nature positive action is another brilliant way to demonstrate leadership on this most important of agendas.
MP, Arundel and South Downs, UK and UK Net Zero Business Champion
From the RSPB’s perspective, nature positive describes a world where nature has recovered and is thriving, with all the benefits that brings to our own species too. A world where we don’t need to go to a ‘nature reserve’ to see a place hooching with wildlife – it’s all around us.
We’re not there, yet – in fact, with some honourable exceptions, the decline in many of our species is increasing. For too long the importance of nature, and its crucial underpinning role in all areas of society, hasn’t been properly acknowledged. But we’re starting to see some positive shifts, and a growing understanding that nature needs to be embedded into all decision making, from individuals to governments, and businesses.
The private sector represents a broad, and significant set of stakeholders in the nature positive movement, accounting for many decisions which have direct, and indirect, impacts on nature in the UK and globally. It’s hugely positive that key players in the private sector have stepped up to start taking the actions that nature, and the long-term viability of their businesses, need. The challenge is to ensure that over the course of the next decade, which is the decade to tackle both the nature and climate emergencies, the decisions made by all businesses actively drive the shift to nature positive alongside net zero. Business as usual is not an option – fundamental change, at scale, is needed and must be embraced.
The nature positive movement must be flexible and adaptive, driven by evidence, built collaboratively with all stakeholders and with a sense of urgency. At the RSPB, we have decades of practical experience working with key sectors across land use and built infrastructure to support the move to nature positive across the UK and we are committed to being an active player in the wider movement for change.
The Nature Handbook for Business provides an opportunity for businesses to explore their impacts on nature and to identify and work towards the solutions needed at pace. This initiative comes at a truly important moment in history – a moment when there is little time left to turn the tide for nature’s recovery. But there is time, we know what to do and we look forward to working with businesses to drive the change needed across all sectors.
Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
At Accenture, we believe sustainability is the new digital.
Just as the digital revolution transformed how we live and work, so too will sustainability, permeating everything we do and driving new value and growth along the way. This isn’t just about driving positive impact in the short term, it’s about delivering shared success for generations to come, for our planet, societies, businesses, and economies.
Accenture has been at the forefront of the transition towards a net-zero economy, but it has taken the collective effort of all stakeholders to accelerate the change we’re now seeing. As the interdependence between business and nature becomes increasingly apparent, it’s imperative that we live up to the shared responsibility of sustainability. We need to embrace change, think differently, act boldly and reach new levels of collaboration.
We have a tremendous opportunity to support nature by working collaboratively to preserve biodiversity. We hope this handbook is the beginning of a bigger journey for business—in the UK and beyond. Inside, you’ll find tangible action points on how to Get Nature Positive. By working together, we can deliver on the promise of sustainability and forge a new path towards a nature positive world.
Chief Responsibility Officer and
Global Sustainability Services Lead, Accenture
Chief Executive Officer, Accenture, UK and Ireland