Nature must be 'new lens' for corporate resource security
Business needs to re-examine its relationship with nature and start integrating true resource value into operational strategies, if it is to guard against future risk.
This was the key message to come out of research undertaken by Defra's Ecosystem Markets Task Force, which published its final report this week.
The report highlights five key recommendations for both government and business where interventions would assist in the creation and development of new markets that benefit the environment.
Among these are the creation of closed loop systems through greater utilisation of anaerobic digestion (AD) and bioenergy on farms, which have the potential to deliver lower energy and waste disposal costs as well as increased resource security.
The study suggests that the Government should build on existing financial support schemes for AD by establishing a specific assurance scheme to encourage financial institutions to offer loans and invest in the technology.
It also calls on the Green Investment Bank to consider supporting farm-level AD on an aggregated basis, and for more research into the possible end-markets for digestate.
Another priority flagged up by the Task Force was better water cycle catchment management by integrating nature into water, waste water and flood management.
It argues that improved measures in this field could boost the quality of water entering the system, thereby reducing treatment costs, load and flood risk.
In order to realise these benefits, there must be greater incentives for water catchment management to enable scaled-up collaboration between water companies, farmers and businesses.
Likewise, incentivising wastewater catchment management was also considered important, especially as it is "an embryonic area" in need of cross-stakeholder buy-in from sewerage companies, farmers and industrial businesses.
"High quality demonstration projects are needed to provide the necessary learning," the report observed.
Increased uptake of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) and greater use of soft flood defences were also considered to be key strategies going forward.
The other priority reccommendations were biodiversity offsetting - securing net gain for nature from planning and development, local woodfuel supply chains, and nature-based certification and labelling to help connect consumers with nature.