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Charities back UK workers saying nature must be at the heart of business decisions

Charities back UK workers saying nature must be at the heart of business decisions
  • The National Trust, the RSPB and WWF call on employees to speak up for nature at work and help put the nature and climate crisis at the heart of business decisions.
  • Charities unveil Nature’s Workforce, a unique resource designed to help employees encourage their business to become more nature friendly, backed by business leader and BBC Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.
  • Polling finds 70% of UK employees likely to encourage their employer to take action to help nature.
  • 62% also said their employer should be doing more to tackle issues such as nature loss and climate change, yet 42% don’t feel confident to start a conversation on the subject.

Three of the UK’s largest conservation charities are calling on companies to put nature at the heart of all business decisions.

Businesses have a critical role to play in tackling the nature and climate crisis, but only three in every 100 companies monitor nature and biodiversity risks [1]. To address this, WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust have today launched a new online guide designed to give workers at all businesses the confidence to take steps to make nature part of everyday decision making, from the factory floor to the boardroom.

Nature’s Workforce, the first resource of its kind designed to help employees call for nature-positive change at work, has been created as part of the charities’ Save Our Wild Isles partnership.  Developed alongside employees and managers across a range of industries, Nature’s Workforce provides a suite of resources including a detailed step-by-step guide on how to start conversations at work on ways businesses can help bring nature back from the brink.

A YouGov poll commissioned this month for the Save Our Wild Isles campaign revealed nearly two-thirds of employees (62%) think their employers should be doing more to tackle issues such as nature loss and climate change, with 70% saying they’d be likely to encourage their employer to take action to help nature.

Over three-quarters (77%) of employees are also worried about the state of nature in the UK, rising to 82% in the 45-54 age group. Almost nine out of ten (89%) employees agreed that employers should consider the impact their business has on nature when making decisions. 

Businesses have a key role to play in helping to protect and restore nature, and the charities hope that Nature’s Workforce will press more firms into creating a nature positive world.

Using Nature’s Workforce, people will discover how best to engage with their employer to make a meaningful difference. Change could come through embedding net zero into the company strategy or switching to a greener pension plan that funds habitat restoration. Supply chains could be improved by analysing transportation emissions, packaging waste and energy consumption at every stage. Businesses could choose to support community groups and local green spaces, either financially or through volunteering, or improve biodiversity on site through nature-friendly planting.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world [2] and one in six species is at risk of extinction from Great Britain [3]. Yet nature underpins our economy, with more than half (55%) of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) either moderately or highly dependent on nature [4]. The charities are calling on businesses to act now as issues including supply chain disruption, asset loss, increased costs and declining employee health will only get worse without a thriving natural world and healthy environment.

Deborah Meaden, business leader and ambassador for both the RSPB and WWF, said: “The need to protect and restore nature is something businesses cannot afford to ignore. Without it, supply chains would collapse and most companies couldn’t function. This guide will hopefully spark conversations in firms across the UK and help put nature at the centre of boardroom decisions. 

“Our business community is packed with innovative thinkers and pioneering companies, capable of speaking to millions of consumers and influencing government policy. I’ve no doubt we have the ability to tackle the nature and climate crisis – but we need to act fast, and we need to act now.”

Polling by the charities revealed that more than half of employees (52%) are confident that their employer can take positive action in the workplace to help tackle the decline in nature. Yet 42% of employees don’t feel confident to have a conversation with their employer about what else the business could be doing to help protect nature in the UK.

A number of UK businesses were involved in the development of the toolkit. Many have already adopted greener business practices, from saving paper and starting volunteering schemes to supporting community tree planting, and improving biodiversity in the workplace through nature-friendly grounds maintenance.   

Fiona Ellis, Director and Co-Founder of Business Declares[5] – who was involved in the development of Nature’s Workforce says: “I am really impressed with the quality of Nature’s Workforce as a tool for everyone in business to use, particularly those in sustainability networks, to identify what they can do to take action around nature in their business.

“Business Declares Network exists to help businesses accelerate action on the climate, nature and social emergency and some of our 140 members tested out the tool in early stages and gave feedback. We need grassroots support for change within business from all employees.

“This tool will encourage people, who recognise the crisis and the need to restore nature to feel empowered to influence at work and take action. The clear signposting of how to have conversations on nature and our impact that the guide provides will help people at every level.”

In a joint statement, Hilary McGrady, Director-General National Trust, Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB and Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF, said: “If we can inspire the 30 million [6] people at work in the UK to think about nature in their day-to-day decisions, just think how powerful that could be to bring real change to our natural environment.

“By making changes to the way we all work and do business, we can transform our natural world. Our hope is that Nature’s Workforce will give employees the confidence to speak up and ensure our economy is working for nature and not against it.”

Libby Kerman, Sustainability Manager at Lincolnshire Housing Partnership says: “At LHP, we were super excited to get involved in the Nature Workforce Project as we have already started to see the benefits that nature can bring to an organisation like ours. As a housing association with 12,000 homes, we also have over 10,000 green spaces distributed throughout our neighbourhoods and have started to introduce steps to change the perceptions of these sites. We have embedded biodiversity-linked KPIs into our grounds maintenance contract to ensure that the enhancement of these urban green spaces gradually becomes routine within maintenance visits, and have also planted 180 trees so far this year.

“These projects were delivered in collaboration with colleagues across the business, and since then I have had several other green space project ideas brought to my attention, which is really exciting! I hope that Nature’s Workforce will encourage more colleague to voice ideas on how we can improve our green spaces for our customers and local wildlife – we need a diverse range of opinions to ensure that our projects are impactful and sustainable.

“Often, I think colleagues can feel as though sustainability and biodiversity are such vast, emotive topics that they feel discouraged to voice their opinions. I hope that this project will breakdown these barriers and empower others to share their ideas on how we can all make better decisions for nature, big or small!”

Ella Thomson, Senior Sustainability Analyst at OVO, an energy company based in Bristol, with 5,000 employees says: “I was keen to get involved with the Nature’s Workforce after starting OVO’s initial nature assessment.

“I found there aren’t many tools out there to help people get started on this journey. The Nature’s Workforce Toolkit will empower employees outside just sustainability teams and help bring a range of perspectives into the conversation building support to encourage business to look at nature in the same way as climate and start to take action.”

To find out more about how your company can take steps to help tackle nature’s decline, join Nature’s Workforce today at www.naturesworkforce.org.uk


YouGov polling:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,255 adults of which 1106 were working adults who are not self-employed. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 3rd May 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

[1] Three in every 100 UK businesses monitors nature and biodiversity risks. Source: ONS.

[2] The UK is in the bottom 10% of countries globally for protecting nature. Source: Biodiversity Intactness Index, Natural History Museum.

[3] Nearly one in six (16%) of more than ten thousand species assessed are threatened with extinction from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). Source: State of Nature report 2023.

[4] More than half (55%) of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is either moderately or highly dependent on nature. Source: PWC

[5] Business Declares is a not for profit organisation formed by senior leaders who believe that business has a major part to play in tackling the climate, ecological and social emergency.

Members include – Triodos Bank, Riverford, FT, Cafe Direct, Cook Foods, Brabners, Bates Wells. 

[6] See Labour market overview, UK – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) and National population projections – Office for National Statistics

Save Our Wild Isles partnership and campaign 

The UK’s wildlife is amazing – but it’s in crisis. Over the last 50 years, 38 million birds have vanished from our skies, 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost, and a quarter of all our mammals are now at risk of extinction. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted regions in the world. 

We can’t just stand aside and watch this devastation continue. That’s why Save Our Wild Isles is the first major joint campaign from WWF-UK, the RSPB and the National Trust, calling for an immediate end to the destruction of UK nature and take urgent action for its recovery.


Main image: Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) on river Brecon Beacons National Park,Wales, UK