—By Rob Gardner, co-founder of Rebalance Earth, a startup whose mission is to create high-integrity nature credits that protect and grow biodiversity, capture carbon and generate prosperity for the communities that preserve nature (Rebalance Earth)—
Attenborough’s latest BBC documentary Wild Isles highlights the urgency to invest in nature and restore the planet’s biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth; sustaining it provides clean air, human health, food security and water. Restoring biodiversity is essential for the Earth to thrive; without it, the world would be much poorer.
The loss of biodiversity is a significant business issue. Companies that depend on natural resources, such as agriculture, forestry, and fishing, are particularly vulnerable to biodiversity loss. For example, deforestation not only destroys the habitats of countless species but also contributes to climate change, which in turn affects the agricultural productivity of the land.
Attenborough’s documentaries like Wild Isles and Our World not only help raise awareness about the need for biodiversity conservation but are proving to drive behaviour change too. According to a study by the University of Exeter, The Blue Planet II series led to over a 50% reduction in single-use plastic by shoppers in the UK. The same series also heavily influenced the UK government’s 25-Year Environment Plan, which focuses on rewilding and restoring nature.
While events like COP26 and COP27 have proven that financial services have a fundamental role in reversing the damage, we have done to the planet. Industry leaders and key speakers at COP26 and COP27 have also demonstrated that businesses can succeed and thrive by sustaining themselves longer when they act responsibly and work to reverse their negative impact on the world.
As such, we are starting to see a growing trend towards sustainable and responsible investing, with investors increasingly seeking companies prioritising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. In 2020, the value of sustainable and responsible investments in the UK reached £1.2 trillion, a 7% increase from the previous year, indicating a growing interest in investing in companies with a positive impact on biodiversity.
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But beyond businesses and big brands playing their part, and as concern for climate change steadily mounts with 8 in ten UK adults either ‘very concerned’ or ‘fairly concerned’ about climate change, you are likely asking yourself: ‘What can I do to make an impact when it comes to reversing climate change and rewilding the earth?’
As an individual, you might think that your efforts are insignificant. But suppose 25% of the population participated in the ten steps below. In that case, it can make a huge difference in achieving our goals to mitigate the impact of climate change and restore biodiversity.
- Measure: Start by measuring your carbon footprint and environmental footprint. To help you understand your lifestyle’s impact on the planet.
- Learn: Educate yourself and others about the importance of biodiversity and climate change. Listen to podcasts, read books, and watch documentaries – there are lots to suit your learning
- Reduce: Reduce your environmental footprint by driving less, using public transportation, biking, or walking, and using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. Reduce your meat consumption and eat a plant-based diet. Check out the Economist’s banana index to understand your diet’s carbon footprint and how to reduce it. Conserve energy and water at home and work. Reduce, reuse, and recycle to reduce waste and conserve resources.
- Vote: Whom you vote for matters. Next year is a big election year in the UK and the US. Vote for political leaders who prioritise environmental sustainability and have concrete plans to address climate change and protect biodiversity.
- Earn: Choose to work for a company focused on sustainable growth that balances profits and its impact on people and the planet. The good news is that more companies are becoming B-Corp’s and committing to this new way of doing business.
- Save: Where you bank matters. Choose a bank committed to positively impacting people and the planet, not just its bottom line.
- Spend: Consume less, buy fewer items, look to borrow, or rent where possible—support companies that prioritise environmental sustainability and are transparent about their impact, e.g., Veja shoes. Return your items typically for a discount to help drive a circular economy where possible. e.g., Charles Tyrwhitt and their policy ‘give your old shirt a second life’. We need to encourage more companies to adopt a circular economy approach. For example, Apple is developing a closed-loop supply chain for its products to minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency. BMW uses recycled materials and remanufacturing processes to reduce waste and conserve resources.
- Invest: Where you invest your money matters, e.g., ISAs and Pensions can have a considerable impact—according to Nordea, investing in funds that are sustainable and are focused on impact can have 27x the effect over a lifetime than flying less, cycling to work, and giving up red meat. The FCA has helpfully developed new fund labels to help you decide. From ‘Sustainable focus’, funds are invested in environmentally and socially sustainable companies. ‘Sustainable improvers’ who engage with their companies to deliver measurable improvements in their sustainability profile over time. ‘Sustainable impact’ aims to invest in companies that contribute measurably to positive sustainability outcomes.
- Give Back: Support conservation efforts and organisations that protect our planet, e.g., WWF.
- Spread the word: Once you feel confident walking the walk, spread the message. When enough people make this switch, we will see a tipping point, typically when more than a quarter of the population adopts this mindset, we will see politicians and company leaders transition from today’s short-term economic focus to one that is more long-term, sustainable, and balanced in its goals.
Why Do Clear Demand Signals Matter?
These ten steps will create clear demand signals for politicians and CEOs to adopt more sustainable practices. Convincing decision-makers to prioritise environmental and social impact over short-term financial gain can be easy with sufficient pressure and incentive. One possible scenario is that the demand signal for sustainability comes from a generational shift.
As younger generations enter leadership positions and become more economically influential, they may prioritise sustainability and impact more than previous generations and demand that politicians and CEOs do the same.
This shift may likely happen in the 2030s when all the people born in the 1990s transition into leadership positions, and those born in the 2000s are in the peak earning and consumption phase. This is because, generally, younger generations tend to be more environmentally conscious and socially responsible than older generations. Therefore, as they gain more power and influence, they will push for more sustainable practices.
And change will continue as new technologies emerge that make sustainable practices more economically viable. For example, innovations in renewable energy, transportation, and food production could make it easier and more cost-effective for companies to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt more sustainable practices. In this scenario, demand signals may come from entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers who are excited about the potential of these technologies to transform industries and reduce environmental impact.
This means clear demand signals from us as voters, employees, consumers, and investors matter. Collectively we make up society. The clearer the demand signal, the more likely politicians and CEOs will be to adopt more sustainable practices, serving as a call to action for us to work together to create a world worth living in.