What’s old can often become new. Yet new is not necessarily better. Nature based solutions are a prime example. Infrastructure organizations and biodiversity experts have been talking about ‘ecosystem-based approaches’ for years. More recently, however, the concept has been receiving greater attention.

In part, that has been driven by policymakers and regulators. In the US, for example, the White House released their ‘Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions’ in 2022.19 In the UK, the topic has been raised up the agenda by the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) strategy that effectively mandates developers to consider nature- based solutions in their design and planning.20 It was also high on the agenda at COP28 where nature-based solutions, biodiversity and climate mitigation and adaptation were notable themes.

Accelerating the drive for nature-based solutions is the increasing body of evidence that suggests these ‘green infrastructure’ solutions can be more effective, sustainable and affordable than traditional ‘grey infrastructure’. There is also a deep recognition that protecting existing nature-based solutions — like those mangrove forests — can be much more cost effective than building new dams or sewer systems. And, when complemented by rain gardens, bioswales, and permeable pavement, they can provide a much more resilient and sustainable form of protection against flooding, for example.

However, to really mainstream nature-based solutions, organizations need to be able to properly measure and account for the real value of these assets. On this score, the Taskforce on nature-related Financial Disclosures (an industry-led initiative that KPMG is proud to be involved with) has helped move the needle by providing recommendations designed to meet corporate reporting requirements.21

The widespread adoption of valuing nature-based assets and solutions would enable companies to better account for these assets on their balance sheets. It would also help catalyze the growth in marketplaces where these assets could be traded, thereby expanding their appeal to private investors. It would also enable governments to make more informed decisions that balance infrastructure delivery with sustainable development.

Driven by strong policy tailwinds, new disclosure recommendations and growing anxiety about the climate emergency, expect to see increased focus on nature-based solutions over the coming years. The challenge here is to transform this pressure into proactive corporate responsibility, fostering a culture of accountability that extends beyond compliance. Indeed, it won’t be too long before developers default to nature-based solutions over pouring concrete.

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19 White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions to Fight Climate Change, Strengthen Communities, and Support Local Economies, 2022

20 GOV.UK, Understanding bio diversity net gain, 2023

21 KPMG International, Growing with nature, 2022