Mainstreaming nature-based solutions requires that we understand the key challenges and opportunities that are facing projects on the ground. Any innovation has to go on a journey - from the initial idea and its demonstration, to its wider uptake within policy, industry and society. Along this journey, getting the assessment of the value of nature-based solutions, the business models required, and the governance strategies that can support their uptake will be critical. To break the dominance of grey infrastructure, new approaches are needed for the development, implementation and mainstreaming of nature-based solutions.
How can policy be developed to support the implementation of nature-based solutions? Across multiple domains, from climate change to biodiversity, urban regeneration to health, nature-based solutions offer new approaches for responding to the challenges facing cities. Their implementation will require a supportive policy environment from the European region to the local level. The NATURVATION project will chart how policy-makers are seeking to include nature-based solutions within strategy, planning and regulation at all levels of government. We will also explore innovative governance approaches to overcome barriers.
Finance is now seen as one of the key challenges for the development and implementation of nature-based solutions in cities. While there is a growing interest in different forms of ‘green’ finance, there is a limited evidence base about how these resources can be leveraged to support nature-based solutions and the instruments and business models needed to support the financing of nature-based solutions. The NATURVATION project will examine both mainstream and innovative financial instruments and approaches in order to establish how nature-based solutions are currently being supported and explore the potential for new approaches.
Taking action on nature-based solutions does not only depend on establishing the right policy conditions and financial resources, but also on establishing business models that can ensure their sustainability over time. Nature-based solutions often create a complex array of public and private benefits, and developing business models that are able to capture and realise this value can be challenging. Our work explores the current business models that are being used to support nature-based solutions and how business model innovation could be harnessed to enable future action on urban sustainability.
Creating business models
Nature-based solutions form a part of everyday life for urban citizens – whether that is a visit to a local park or passing by a favourite tree – such that their involvement in the design and implementation of new initiatives is critical. Urban citizens, for example through community gardens or food growing projects, are also central to the development and maintenance of nature-based solutions over time. Where citizen engagement is limited, unintended consequences can result – such as increasing house prices around newly designed green areas of cities – which can lead to forms of exclusion and protest.
Innovation pathways are journeys that involve key drivers, decision-making junctures, agents and opportunities which combine to facilitate nature-based solutions. The NATURVATION project shows pieces of evidence of innovative governance types and forms, innovative financial arrangements, novel business models, new institutional settings and combinations of these activities. These examples all hold the potential for mainstreaming nature-based solutions within urban planning, policy and development.