Developing a Nature-Based Strategy: 2 More Essential Steps

Posted March 20, 2024 | Sustainability |
Developing a Nature-Based Strategy: 2 More Essential Steps

In a recent Advisor, we shared two pieces of advice from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) that can help a company move from understanding its nature-related dependencies to understanding its opportunities. This Advisor continues that discussion, offering two more steps companies can take: (1) support ongoing management and monitoring and (2) intersect with other corporate and community needs.

Support Ongoing Management & Monitoring

New biodiversity projects can garner a lot of support from employees and managers interested in designing and implementing efforts for nature. Long-term maintenance and monitoring is less exciting and can lead to a project failing or underperforming. A lack of monitoring can make it difficult for a program to seek or secure verification — most certification and recognition programs require evidence of upkeep and impact.

Management and monitoring range from simple to complex, time efficient to time intensive, and specialized to general. Successful development and implementation of these regimens start with initial project design. It should take into consideration the type of ecoregion and its size, the availability of financial and human resources, and the type of site.

For example, is the industrial location staffed on a continual basis like a factory, mine, or steel plant, or is it sparsely populated like an electric transmission line, a brownfield site, or an office campus in a post-pandemic world? If the nature program is designed to fit the site, management and monitoring will flow more easily.

The most sustainable nature-based efforts on corporate lands have support for management and monitoring. There are many ways this support can be given:

  • Financial support can provide the nature-based project with the materials and tools needed to both implement the project and monitor it. Such support does not have to be a huge expense, but it does need to be commensurate with the proposed effort.

  • Giving employees the time to engage can be powerful and can support both a biodiversity goal and employee engagement goals. Employees who act for nature at their place of work are engaging in healthy, collegiate, positive activities. By providing time for employees to implement, manage, and monitor a nature project, a sense of pride and ownership is generated. For example, global materials company Owens Corning hosts employee lunch-and-learn presentations that focus on the conservation programs happening at its 40-acre facility. The presentations teach employees about ongoing nature projects and how to get involved. External speakers from project partners bring in-depth knowledge of the topic to the presentations.

  • Encouraging and allowing community partners to participate in a nature program on corporate lands can bring numerous benefits, including securing a social license to operate and increasing community engagement. Local Audubon chapters or less formal nature-related groups can bring the time and expertise needed to manage and monitor efforts and provide access to normally restricted areas. At the US headquarters of automaker Stellantis, the local Audubon chapter is allowed into a restricted area to monitor one of the largest heron rookeries in the county. This partnership lets Stellantis secure program verification while giving the chapter access to an exciting location.

  • WM, the largest solid waste management company in the US, allows its facilities to develop their own employee engagement and community outreach and determine the strategies that work best for each site. This self-determination allows each location to design contextual programs. At its Bucks County, Pennsylvania, landfill, WM brings a local school, a senior center, and its own employees together to implement pollinator gardens across generations and the host community. This effort, which began years ago, has fostered learning and strengthened community relations.

Intersect with Other Corporate & Community Needs

A company can achieve multiple benefits by leveraging its nature programs in support of other corporate social responsibility priorities. By crossing fence lines into communities, a company can address impacts and enhance relations. By using its nature programs for education, a company can meet its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) goals and provide value to learners of all ages.

Indeed, when a company deploys nature-based solutions, it can mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff, fugitive dust, noise pollution, and heat island effects. The intersections of place-based efforts create a multiplier effect whereby a simple tree planting can deliver multiple benefits.

To address local environmental challenges and increase residents’ knowledge of these issues, CEMEX, a global building materials company headquartered in Mexico, has developed an environmental stewardship program for local teens associated with its Tepeaca site in the state of Puebla. Teens from the Tepeaca area and nearby Cuatinchán learn about the environmental issues impacting their communities, including habitat destruction and fragmentation due to development driven by 13% population growth in recent years.

The Tepeaca quarry operation maintains a forestland of acacia and mesquite trees where students learn about the nursery business and sustainable agriculture. Through classroom and virtual learning, as well as field research in their communities, students come to understand local environmental challenges. They also participate in habitat restoration, maintenance and monitoring activities, and submit data to citizen science platform iNaturalist.

The program’s intersections deliver benefits to nature through the habitats on site, benefits to youth through learning opportunities, and benefits to the community by having educated and environmentally literate members.

[For more from the author on this topic, see: “A Strategic Approach to Creating Nature Uplift on Corporate Lands.”]

About The Author
Sara Cook
Sara Cook is Director of Business Development at Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), where she links WHC’s mission and conservation priorities to corporate performance, fostering responsible action for environment and communities. As a senior sustainability and environmental professional, with more than 18 years’ experience in the industrial minerals and resources sector, she brings industry-recognized best practices to design strategic… Read More