Integrating biodiversity into financial decision-making, reporting and nature markets

The Integrating Finance and Biodiversity (IFB) Programme has received a significant boost in the form of £3 million follow-on funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Species are declining at the fastest rate recorded, yet the Dasgupta Review highlighted the fundamental dependency of our economy on biodiversity. The Programme tackles the rapid decline of species by integrating the needs of biodiversity and a nature-positive future within financial decision-making, reporting and the establishment of nature markets.

Phase I of the programme was launched in April 2023 with 12 pilot projects. They explored the gaps between the financial system and biodiversity, and have engaged with over 250 organisations. The emerging outcomes of Phase I have prompted NERC to provide further support until April 2026 to shift from a project portfolio to an integrated Programme.

The vision is to build national capability bridging scientific, finance, policy and third sector communities, harnessing and catalysing world-leading science to enable the greening of finance for nature, and mobilisation of capital for nature recovery. This aligns with the goals of the 2023 UK Green Finance Strategy and Environmental Improvement Plan and helps set the global agenda.

Work is organised within three flagship initiatives:

  • Financing Green Sector Transitions tackles the need to restore nature in the UK's agriculture sector, which accounts for over 70% of landcover, and address global biodiversity impacts of the UK consumer focussing on tea and rubber imports.
  • Greening Finance for Nature addresses risk assessment and decision-making processes of financial institutions such as banks and asset management companies and how they impact and could benefit nature.
  • Financing Biodiversity responds to the challenge of financing biodiversity conservation with integrity at a large scale promoting best practices and coordination in biodiversity finance.

Dr Nick Wells, Principal Investigator of the network and Director of Impact and Innovation at UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said:

"NERC and UKRI’s commitment to building a nature-positive future should be applauded. Our Phase I funding is already building a multi-stakeholder community to integrate the financial system and biodiversity. The announcement of Phase II is an endorsement of the work completed so far across 17 institutions, and it allows us to be more ambitious as we look to co-develop the knowledge, tools and skills to incorporate biodiversity-related risks and opportunities into business strategy, investment decisions, reporting and high integrity biodiversity markets."

The flagships are underpinned and supported by a Strategic Coordination and Integration Hub which is home to three themes. The first – Data, tools and metrics – will assess the biodiversity data requirements and infrastructure-needs of stakeholders, and collaborate with IAPB and TNFD to devise principles of high integrity and effectiveness. The second theme – Capacity and innovation – will build capacity in finance and biodiversity through secondments, innovation labs, and events to showcase nature-positive finance. The third - UK nations and international co-operation – will engage UK Nations, consider international best practices, and synthesize knowledge for biodiversity markets and policy.

The Programme as a whole will create an active and ongoing network of researchers and finance practitioners across the public, private, and third sectors.

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Executive Chair of NERC, said:

“This NERC funding will empower financial decision makers in the financial, agricultural and public sectors to consider the impact of biodiversity in their investments. The research will support the transition to a more nature-positive global financial system, and it expands NERC’s growing Green Finance portfolio of investments.”

Emily McKenzie, the Technical Director of The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, said:

“To close the financing gap for nature and biodiversity protection and recovery, businesses and financial institutions need to begin to measure and disclose their impacts on nature and their dependencies on the many vital services that nature provides. This is at the core of the recommendations of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures.

“To achieve this, companies and financial institutions urgently need to be able to access robust data, models and tools to assess their nature-related dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities.

“I'm delighted to welcome the UKRI's Integrating Finance and Biodiversity for a Nature Positive Future Programme, which will play an important role in filling the data and knowledge gaps and help accelerate progress.”

The 17 institutions working together on the Programme are James Hutton Institute, Lancaster University, Middlesex University, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University of London, Queen's University Belfast, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Brighton, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth, University of Reading, University of York, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.