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UK Task Force Report Explains Why Businesses, Government Should Prioritize Environmental Preservation

Today, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force (EMTF), an independent task force aimed at finding new opportunities for UK businesses to drive green economic growth, released its Final Report stating the opportunities available for businesses that properly value nature. Led by Ian Cheshire, Group Chief Executive of Kingfisher plc, the group includes members from Unilever, Jaguar Land Rover, Liz Earle, Environment Bank and more.

Since its formation in late 2011, The EMTF has been reviewing opportunities available to UK business that could help them develop green goods, services, investment vehicles and markets that value and protect the environment in order to report back to the UK government with its findings.

In its report, the Task Force makes recommendations for both government and business where interventions would assist in the creation and development of new markets, enhancing opportunities for growth that also benefiting the environment. The report asserts that business is often unaware of its true reliance on nature, and that a new approach is needed to maximize opportunities and manage future risks.

“Many businesses know that the world’s natural resources are being used up more quickly than they can be replaced, but don’t realize their direct or indirect dependence on them,” said Cheshire. “With this report we set out to raise awareness of both the risks of doing nothing about it and the opportunities to be had from thinking differently about the value of nature to business.”

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Unilever CEO Paul Polman said, “The old model of consumption at any cost is dead. We need sustainable solutions which recognize and account for the true value of nature in a totally transparent and holistic way.”

The report also outlines a range of practical recommendations for business and government:

1) Biodiversity offsetting: securing a net gain for nature through planning and development

2) Bio-energy and anaerobic digestion on farms: using farm waste to generate energy, closing the loop

3) Local cultivation of wood fuel: active sustainable management of wood resources supporting local economies

4) Nature-based certification and labeling: connecting consumers with nature and increasing awareness

5) Water cycle catchment management: integrating nature into water, waste water and flood management.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said, “It’s fantastic to have these highly respected business leaders come up with so many potential opportunities for businesses. This report shows that it is possible to boost the economy while at the same time we improve the environment. It adds new ideas and thinking in many areas that we’re already enthusiastically pursuing: such as biodiversity offsetting, anaerobic digestion and imaginative water management. We’ll be looking at all the recommendations and responding formally in the summer.”

Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said, "Circular models reduce the pressure on agricultural assets and preserve soil productivity, a key factor of long-term resilience. Properly valuing the system within which we operate makes business sense and creates new streams of income."

The business case for the valuation of ecosystem services was the topic of a panel discussion at the New Metrics of Sustainable Business Conference in September.

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