Building business cases for Nature-based Solutions

    Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are often a new or different way for companies to solve problems – and changing over from established solutions, as ever, requires a strong business case. WBCSD’s NbS Blueprint and Map have been developed through extensive engagement with more than 50 member companies and several external organizations collaborating to provide companies with a practical ‘how-to’ guide on building business cases for using Nature-based Solutions.

    Designed for all companies at various stages of the nature action journey, the Blueprint and NbS Map can be used to identify and apply NbS that address business challenges and opportunities while also delivering positive impact on major societal challenges. In this way, companies can address common problems – risk management, cost reduction, supply chain resilience and others – in a way that progresses their action on climate, nature and equity.

    The Blueprint and NbS Map offer companies:

    1. an entry point to NbS from the business side, connecting the company’s own rationale for action to the need for nature action;
    2. a selection of available NbS, categorized by the business challenges that they can address, and
    3. a structured six-stage approach to build business cases suitable for NbS – including tools and processes for stakeholder engagement, identifying broader business and societal benefits and the fundamental aspects of designing and costing NbS activities.

    The Challenge

    Climate change, nature loss and mounting inequality are deeply intertwined – and business must take action on all three fronts at the same time. There are solution sets that can do this; Nature-based Solutions (NbS) offer a powerful example.

    However, despite the strong societal case for action on NbS, progress from the private sector has lagged: while US$5tn of corporate financial flows impact nature negatively every year, only US$35bn of annual investment goes to NbS.

    To date, the NbS discussion has centred on climate and/or nature action, with most focus on how NbS tackle societal challenges. The value proposition for businesses using NbS remains underexplored. As a result, companies often view NbS as just a sustainability activity rather than a solution set that addresses business challenges, captures new opportunities and also delivers positive impact on climate, nature and equity.

    The Business Case

    Nature-based Solutions offer companies a massive opportunity to address challenges and opportunities while also taking tangible action on sustainability imperatives.

    Using NbS in this way requires a shift in perspective – viewing NbS as solutions to business and societal challenges, not only as sustainability activities. More than that, business cases for NbS need to be built differently in order to include more of the value that NbS offer and to focus on maximizing value over minimizing cost.

    Recognizing the true impact of NbS – both on societal challenges and creating value for companies – will allow companies to make strong business cases for this solution set, enabling them to deliver for climate, nature, equity and business ambitions at scale.

    The Solution

    The NbS Blueprint offers a six-stage process for building business cases, which will enable companies to make like-for-like comparisons with existing or standard solutions. The objective is to ensure well-informed decisions about which option offers the most overall value to the company, planet and people. The six stages are:

    • identify key business challenges and opportunities,
    • explore NbS relevant to the company’s challenges and opportunities (using the NbS Map),
    • collect information on overall impacts and benefits to the business from the chosen NbS,
    • identify the design and implementation process required,
    • estimate costs of NbS activities, and
    • compare NbS options to other solutions across full range of benefits and costs.

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