Whose shoes are you wearing?
Bruce Howard co-ordinates the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. In this first blog we hear his perspective on why the Natural Capital Investment Conference matters.
Documents written by those who embrace the term ‘natural capital’ often read like a ‘note to self’. The authors point out the implications of neglecting natural assets and stress the urgency of ‘investment’. Nonetheless, they reveal little understanding of the working world of people who hold the purse strings.
Many investors are already deeply concerned for the environment. But in order to act they need investable proposals. This means seeing a clear return on investment, whether this be avoided costs or new revenue. They’d like to see benefits for society too.
Investors are a diverse group of people, each with specific needs that need to be understood. They range from finance directors in land-based businesses to institutional investors operating globally. Government and the third sector are investors too, of course.
In the UK, there are now significant opportunities for institutional investors to work with the rich array of organisations that know how to steward our natural capital. The Natural Capital Investment Conference will enable the investment community to learn about these. Green finance is dominated by talk of low carbon technologies. What is new is the prospect for investment in the very fabric of the environment from which business and the rest of society derives such great value: wetlands, woodland, marine habitats, coastline, peatland, public parks and so on.
"What is new is the prospect for investment in the very fabric of the environment from which business derives such great value.."
The Conference will also help stewards of natural capital to step into the shoes of people who have funds they are willing to invest. If you are a steward you need to understand your own business model as well as the goals of those who hold the funds. Key questions are:
- Why should an investor put funds in the natural features you are concerned with? Would an engineered solution deliver a safer outcome?
- If sustainable investment is their goal, would investing in a wind farm deliver a better return? Or would a conservation project in Brazil deliver the same return with more impact?
The Natural Capital Investment Conference is the place to get clear on what the investment opportunities are, and what an investment-ready project looks like.
"...get clear on what the investment opportunities are, and what an investment-ready project looks like"
It is a conference for all of the UK. Across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are substantial opportunities to invest. All four parts of the UK have world-class expertise in why the environment matters to all of society.
Let’s move on from writing natural capital ‘notes to self’. If we are not investors, let's step into the shoes of those who are. If we are not stewards of natural capital, let's step into their shoes. By so doing, we can make the UK a leader in natural capital investment so everyone benefits.
Bruce Howard has been Network Co-ordinator at the Ecosystems Knowledge Network since 2012. He has many years experience of bringing different sectors and professions together to address environment-related challenges.