Leaders are coming to recognise that their passion for nature and the great outdoors can be used as a force for good to drive change and build cohesiveness in the business community, Will Hayler writes.
For decades, published research has reminded us of the myriad benefits gained from time spent in the great outdoors.
Humans, it is clear, need nature — not only in economic terms but also for our own well-being.
From reduced risks of dementia to improving memory and lowering blood pressure, this growing body of evidence is telling us all what we all, deep down, know, but have only recently begun to truly appreciate: the natural world is essential for our own well-being.
By default, this means that the protection of the environment, and of our natural world is essential for our physical, mental, social and economic wellbeing too.
Hidden within this growing body of evidence on the value of nature was a paper that caught my eye.
Published in the journal Science, it explored the non-material dimensions of human-nature relations and human well-being through cultural ecosystem services and in doing this, break down the different types of connection that are created when people spend time in nature.
Sixteen connections were identified by the team in total. These included communication, creativity, and intuition.
However, one connection in particular stood out thanks to the work I do in building relationships around a shared appreciation of nature. This connection? Cohesiveness.
Cohesiveness, as described by the authors of the paper, is “the development of meaningful relationships between people via interaction with nature”.
Three years ago I set up the Blue Earth Summit in Bristol with a view to harnessing a shared love of the outdoors between businesses in order to drive forward positive environmental action.
No nature, no business
Nature — both the being in it, but also the sheer appreciation of it — is a phenomenal tool for building connections, and this is as true in the business world as it is in our social lives.
But does the wider business community recognise the power that our appreciation of nature has in driving forward positive change?
I believe it does. Year after year, we’re seeing both small and large businesses adopting a more visionary approach to their environmental and nature-based activities. Leaders are coming to recognise that their passion for nature and the great outdoors can be used as a force for good to drive change and build cohesiveness in the business community.
It’s vital that more businesses get on board. The European Union has an estimated 23.2 million enterprises operating in the non-financial business economy.
Every single one of these businesses will rely on the natural world for the work they do. From the tangible benefits nature provides — such as food, fibre, minerals and building materials, to the "services" that it provides, such as pollination of crops, water filtration, waste decomposition, climate sequestration and climate regulation.
Businesses — be they large or small — rely on nature for healthy, happy and flourishing societies which provide them with customers and workforces. Taking action on the environment is thus in their interest — not only for the well-being of the planet, for current and future generations, but for the very businesses they operate.
Business could be a force for good
Building on our shared love of nature is an easy win, but it can’t come too soon. According to a recent report from the European Environment Agency, only 15% of Europe’s habitats and 27% of its protected species are in good conservation status.
Not only this, many vital species, habitats and ecosystems in Europe are threatened by urban sprawl, unsustainable farming and forestry, and pollution. Roads, railways, urban areas and agricultural land fragment Europe’s landscape, hindering the movement of species.
Continue to ignore these statistics, and we’ll see species populations crash and burn, soil health wither and our waterways and lands fill with toxic pollution.
The EU’s proposed Nature Restoration Law, which was adopted in parliament in July 2023 will set out mechanisms to halt and reverse biodiversity loss of ecosystems needed by 2050.
Indeed, the nature restoration agenda is the EU’s response to the groundbreaking agreement reached during COP15 in Montreal in 2022 to protect and restore 30% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2030.
If implemented, the proposed EU law will be a game changer to restore ecosystems for people, the climate, and the planet. But in the meantime, businesses can start leading the change we so urgently need to see.
We need an overhaul of all our systems to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and ensure that nature continues to provide the vital services and connections that we rely on.
Looking, as I have, at the growing network of businesses in the UK and Europe taking part in this year’s Blue Earth Summit I’m encouraged and hopeful.
It is here that some of the most inspiring, experienced, provocative thought-leaders and trailblazers from all walks of life gather to share knowledge and kickstart the inspiration-action with a simple approach: inspire, connect, act.
We’re witnessing a growing, powerful movement in the business sector which is determined to build on the cohesive powers of nature. While it is clear that there is huge potential for transformative change, we all also recognise that it can’t come a moment too soon.
Will Hayler is the co-founder of the Blue Earth Summit.
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