OVO Foundation: Nature and Biodiversity Project of the Year

OVO Foundation, in partnership with Earthwatch Europe, won edie’s the Nature and Biodiversity Project of the Year award, for offering sustainable solutions to combat habitat destruction, flooding and inequitable access to green space, while addressing the pressing urban nature and biodiversity challenges.

OVO Foundation: Nature and Biodiversity Project of the Year

At a glance:  
Who:  OVO Foundation in partnership with Earthwatch Europe
What:  Tiny Forests initiative planting 12 dense, fast-growing native woodlands 
Where:  Urban communities in the UK
When: 2020-2023
Why: To tackle urban nature and biodiversity challenges, enhance climate resilience and provide equitable access to green spaces 

The Challenge:  

OVO’s Tiny Forests initiative confronted multifaceted challenges inherent in urban environments, including habitat degradation, biodiversity loss and limited access to green spaces—issues exacerbated by rapid urbanisation and historical biodiversity decline.  

According to London’s Natural History Museum, Britain has lost more of its natural biodiversity than almost anywhere else in Western Europe, the most of all the G7 nations. 

Additionally, the implementation of the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) target by the Government this year necessitates developers to ensure a minimum uplift of 10% in biodiversity following intervention, further emphasising the urgency to address these pressing environmental concerns. 

The Solution:  

OVO Foundation, in collaboration with Earthwatch Europe, devised a strategy to address challenges posed by urbanisation and biodiversity loss. Through the Tiny Forests initiative, the partners implemented an approach aimed at restoring habitats, enhancing biodiversity and promoting access to green spaces. This involved selecting sites, planning tree species composition and engaging stakeholders, including schools, local authorities and community members. 

By planting 12 Tiny Forests across the UK, OVO and Earthwatch are bringing nature to underserved communities, enhancing biodiversity, and fostering climate resilience through innovative, scalable methods. 

How it works:  

Tiny Forests transform urban communities by restoring degraded land, requiring only a tennis court-sized plot. They grow up to ten times faster than traditional woodlands, absorb more carbon and support native wildlife. Each Tiny Forest comprises up to 25 native tree species, selected based on site surveys, contributing to increased biodiversity.  

OVO customers’ monthly donations, matched by OVO, guarantee an annual income for the Foundation of £1m, enabling the funding of projects like Tiny Forests. Through the TF x Schools programme, Earthwatch trained 534 teachers between 2020-2023 to provide outdoor education, connecting more than 6,000 children to nature.  

Community members volunteer as Tree Keepers, supported by Earthwatch’s online platform and training webinars. This community engagement empowers individuals to monitor and maintain local nature, fostering grassroots action with widespread impact. 

The results:  

The 12 Tiny Forests planted by OVO and Earthwatch comprise 7,200 trees and 25,000 square feet of previously degraded urban land. These forests have boosted biodiversity, with more than 34 different species of pollinators, butterflies, and ground-dwelling invertebrates identified across the sites. The TF initiative has engaged more than 6,000 children in outdoor education, trained 534 teachers, and involved community members as Tree Keepers, fostering environmental stewardship at a local level. 

The Judges said:  

“The OVO Foundation Tiny Forests project is a well-defined, well-thought-through initiative that could bring outsized benefit to the community and nature. We felt that this sort of project was an exceptional prototype that could demonstrate to communities all over the country that you don’t need to have acres of land, or very deep pockets to create something where nature and people could thrive. The conclusion is an inspirational project that has all the ingredients it needs to flourish further.” 

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