Major investment into research and innovation (R&I) is needed to enable UK businesses to address the global biodiversity and climate crises, according to a new report.

The report by the Valuing Nature Programme –– which brings together businesses, research institutions, government agencies and NGOs – is based on feedback from 200 organisations across all these sectors, half of which were UK firms.

It says the UK business community needs access to solid scientific research in order to:

1. better measure and value nature in both non-monetary and monetary terms

2. better assess business impacts and dependencies on nature

3. make better business decisions and develop new business models that reduce impacts on nature

4. report on and disclose these impacts and dependencies

This in turn will help the UK deliver on its net zero greenhouse gas emissions target and ambition to reverse biodiversity loss, and enable transition towards a more resilient and sustainable post-pandemic economy.

R&I needs highlighted in the report, Towards a Natural Assets Research and Innovation Agenda in support of UK Business and Policy, include:

improving business-relevant research and data on natural assets

developing frameworks/standards that level the playing field for businesses taking action for nature

expanding pilot projects developing new business models and solutions to protect and restore natural assets

developing efficient natural asset markets, and stimulating investment in business solutions that deliver gains for nature

assessing business risks and resilience in relation to natural assets

enhancing knowledge exchange between academia and business and providing training for both academics and business professionals on measuring and valuing natural assets for business

Sir Ian Cheshire, Chairman of Barclays plc, one the many business leaders who contributed to the report, says: “Companies understand they have responsibility for their environmental footprint, and that it is no longer someone else’s job. Business ‘gets it’ now and fully recognises the climate and biodiversity emergencies. However, there is still an enormous amount of confusion and uncertainty about how to do this.

“We are very interested to know how we can value nature better, make the right decisions and come up with a set of sustainable business models. Business cannot do this alone. It is keen to come to the ‘party’, but needs help – including research funding – to help R&I teams make the necessary advances.”

Andy Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Nestle UK&I, said: “More and more businesses are recognising their dependence on nature and the need to invest into the enhancement of multi-functional landscapes, to mitigate the associated risks they face. To accelerate this transition, one of the crucial elements is the appropriate funding of underpinning research, to support organisations in their decision making and optimise their impact.”

The report follows a workshop and conference at The Royal Society, London, in February organised by the Valuing Nature Programme, which is funded by the Government and UK research councils. It draws on the programme’s work with different sectors over the past six years.

A second new report produced by the programme reveals that the R&I needs resonate strongly with the policymakers, and that there is strong interest from Government, devolved administrations, and non-departmental public bodies to engage with businesses and academia in furthering natural assets R&I.

Companies and other organisations can signal their interest in the Natural Assets R&I Agenda by signing an online pledge form: