Money can grow on trees: what’s good for nature is good for business

Monday 9 February 2015, 5.28am | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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Capitalists don’t care about the environment. Industry, agriculture and commerce have long exploited nature’s resources. The pursuit of profit pays scant regard to the underlying cost of using up the planet’s capital.

That’s the familiar story that we hear about capitalists. But a growing number of voices are claiming that big business and nature in fact make perfect partners.

Harnessing the processes of nature, they argue, is simply good business sense. Forests, for example, perform carbon capture worth £2.3 trillion a year. Nature not only does this for free, it executes it with greater efficiency than any supply-chain manager could dream of. A Texan chemical plant, for instance, recently discovered that it could keep its ground ozone levels down by planting a forest nearby, for the same cost as erecting a new smokestack scrubber which would have done the same job.

This is simply one example of how business can thrive through collaboration with nature. But the question is, can such solutions be developed on a mass scale? Or is this vision of business and nature working hand in hand across the globe just a case of wishful green thinking?

Intelligence Squared, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, brought together some of the world’s leading conservation experts, along with voices from the worlds of finance and industry, to ask whether working in tandem with nature is the soundest investment that business can make.

The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide.



Tony JuniperTony Juniper

Sustainability adviser and former executive director of Friends of the Earth. He is the author of What Nature Does For Britain and co-author with HRH Prince of Wales of Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World.


Nick DeardenNick Dearden

Director of the World Development Movement, which campaigns in the UK on global justice issues. He is strongly opposed to any moves to put a price on nature. Dearden was formerly the director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign and corporates campaign manager at Amnesty International UK, and is a regular contributor to the Guardian.


Peter KareivaPeter Kareiva

Chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, and cofounder of the Natural Capital Project, a pioneering partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Stanford University and WWF to develop credible tools that allow routine consideration of nature’s assets and ecosystem services. He previously worked for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.


Jeremy OppenheimJeremy Oppenheim

Leader of McKinsey’s global practice on Sustainability and Resource Productivity. In 2014, he took a year’s sabbatical to head up the New Climate Economy project at the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, whose report Better Growth, Better Climate has been described as “Stern 2”. A former senior economist at the World Bank, he is the author of Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Materials, Food and Water Needs and advises leading corporations on how to integrate sustainability into the heart of their business models.


Lucy SiegleLucy Siegle

Ethical living columnist for The Observer and author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? and Green Living in the Urban Jungle.




Matthew TaylorMatthew Taylor

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Before joining the RSA in 2006, he was the Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to Tony Blair, and the Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research between 1999 and 2003.



Speakers are subject to change.