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Overcoming Corporate Barriers to Nature-based Solutions

Jul 2022  •  Cameron Steagall, Manager I Lizzie Russler, Coordinator

Overcoming Corporate Barriers to Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) play a critical role in keeping us on track for a global 1.5 degrees °C target. If scaled up now, nature-based solutions could provide 30% or more of the emissions reductions needed to reach our global climate goals by 2030. According to WWF, Nature-based Solutions “harness the power of nature to boost natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and human well-being to address major societal issues, including climate change.” In a corporate context, Nature-based solutions provide opportunities for businesses looking to offset or reduce emissions while simultaneously providing a wide range of climate benefits from land conservation to habitat restoration.

Our future requires corporations to take a “both/and” approach, investing in internal reductions and climate solutions, inclusive of nature-based solutions, outside the value chain. Alongside ambitious emissions reductions from their carbon footprints, funding from businesses—including carbon credit purchases, philanthropy, and impact capital—can be catalytic in scaling the climate solutions necessary to achieve a just and sustainable 1.5°C future by 2030.

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) designed a diagnostic tool to advance organizational understanding of nature-based solutions and accelerate their adoption within corporate strategies. Based on observations, surveyed information, and experiences deploying NbS in 35 companies, this solutions tool identifies some of the top hurdles companies face when moving from NbS concept to implementation. Outlined issues fell into at least one of four thematic sections: Dealing with Unknowns, Engaging Colleagues, Navigating External Pressures, and Making the Financial Case.

The tool found the six key drivers for adopting NbS are “lowering project costs, managing regulatory requirements and risks, mitigating natural disaster risks, engaging community stakeholders, increasing marketing/branding, achieving sustainability goals, and promoting employee well-being” (CISL, Pg 8).  The tool offers practical solutions for navigating these challenges. For example, when making the financial case, companies need to identify the source of the concerns as well as their key internal stakeholders; define relevant nature-based solutions and value propositions; and then construct and execute an engagement strategy to promote and secure internal buy-in for NbS.

Deploying funding for NbS will also require a big picture view; forecasting a decade out and mitigating predictable problems through interval check-ins that help secure confidence in any long-term plan. Similarly, companies face extreme external and reputational pressures that influence the implementation of new strategies. It is not uncommon for businesses to resist change but company engagement with the tool uncovered that simple and well-known exercises like inclusive and robust communication efforts as well as stakeholder mapping will alleviate some of the stresses when executing Nature-based Solutions.

CISL’s new Diagnostic Tool is useful for companies at all stages of NbS consideration within their climate and decarbonization strategies. However, for NbS to be an effective effort in solving the climate change crisis, companies must consider moving beyond individualized action and begin scaling through collaboration and strive toward system-level change. The Business Alliance to Scale Climate Solutions (BASCS) is a coalition of businesses and NGO/IGO partners that collate and share best practices, fund opportunities, and research existing frameworks and guidelines to accelerate the scaling of climate solutions deployment. BASCS also offers an opportunity to help connect and support existing initiatives and the community by providing a central, neutral platform for business and climate experts to meet, learn, discuss, act, and co-invest together. Through multi-stakeholder collaboration and with support from corporations, non-profit organizations, project developers, and other stakeholders, BASCS will increase the supply and impact of Nature-based and other climate solutions. Together we can accelerate the private sector’s pivot from climate ambition to climate action. ​