New markets for nature recovery

Business models that regenerate nature


Nature conservation alone has not reversed the long term trends of ecosystem decline and habitat and species loss.

This programme of work looks into the new business cases required to regenerate nature.

This includes:

  • Our work with the National Trust to develop Natural Infrastructure Schemes (NIS);
  • Our work on The Eden Model demonstration project, supported by Defra and in collaboration with 3Keel, which builds on the business case to accelerate private money for public land;
  • A practical case study looking into the possibilities of nature-based carbon offsetting for airlines.

Community based land management

How land is used and managed in the UK is due to change to address the need to reduce emissions and restore nature. Private natural capital investments are starting to play an increasingly significant role in driving land use change. In both England and Scotland, there is ambition to grow private investment in nature to £1 billion a year. 

There is strong public support for protecting and restoring the environment. In some places, community groups and local volunteers are driving change themselves by buying land to restore nature. But in other places, investment in natural capital has been more contentious, where corporations buying farms to plant trees for carbon offsetting has been seen as an assault on their local landscape and heritage. 

This project, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aims to explore how communities can benefit from these land use changes. 

The role of natural capital

The need to halt and reverse climate change and nature decline is putting new demands on UK land. This opens up new opportunities for the land-based economy, but a flood of new money into rural areas is neither guaranteed, nor will it necessarily support the multiple objectives asked of the land.

In 2016, we set out the business case for why private-public partnerships were important for tackling biodiversity loss, arguing for the government to adopt a strategic combination of both approaches.

Since then, our work has progressed to explore the governance of natural capital, with a focus on private payments, in order to steer natural capital markets in a direction that is good for both people and planet.

Read our reports:

Natural Infrastructure Schemes

Farmers are in a unique position to restore and protect the natural environment, but there are currently limited commercial rewards for providing natural services from their land, such as flood relief.

In partnership with the National Trust, we developed a concept known as a Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), which brings together groups of farmers or other land managers to sell ecosystem services from their land to private beneficiaries. We are trialling this concept through farmers selling ecosystem services to ensure the provision of cleaner and slower flowing water to those downstream.

Read our reports:

The Eden Model demonstration project

The Eden Model demonstration project in the Eden Valley, Cumbria is expanding on payments for ecosystem services to showcase a replicable system that enables multiple buyers to work together to purchase a variety of environmental benefits from sustainable land management interventions.

This model builds on previous work by the core partners in the project, including the Natural Infrastructure Scheme concept, and the Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs) approach developed by 3Keel.

With support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), we have also explored how private payments and public funding together can be used effectively under the government’s new Environmental Land Management system, which is supporting landowners to manage land in line with environmental priorities.


We are grateful to the following partners for supporting this work:

Explore our work

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