Sarah Jane Chimbwandira of Surrey Wildlife Trust looks forward to the session hosted by the Surrey Nature Partnership at the Natural Capital Initiative’s Valuing Our Life Support Systems summit. She argues that the messages of Natural Capital thinking must capture people’s imagination before it can have widespread adoption.
“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best—and change—from hearing stories that strike a chord within us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.” John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and author (Leading Change)
The truth of this quote was brought home to me recently at a Business Roundtable event organised by Mark Pearson, Chief Executive of Surrey Connects to explore the importance of natural capital to businesses in Surrey through storytelling. The discussion was a forerunner to the session we are leading at the Natural Capital Initiative Conference, 6th – 7th November 2014: Valuing our Life Support Systems #VolSS14.
Over the last 20 years alone there has been a relentless decline in the numbers of species and extent of habitats they rely on across the globe, reflected by our local experience in Surrey. The degradation of habitats and their species continues as the increasing demands for growth in the economy and associated housing, infrastructure and resources take precedence in a county which is a net contributor to the Exchequer to the tune of some £6bn per year.
However, it is the very fabric of the county, it’s incredibly rich and diverse natural environment that supports this economy.
In recent times there has been recognition that the need for a landscape scale approach as recommended by Sir John Lawton in his report Making Space for Nature; subsequently being driven by the actions contained within the Natural Environment White Paper is essential. This approach recognises the multiple services provided to us by a healthy natural environment and the fundamental underpinning to this, our “natural capital”.
For me this change in emphasis has been a gradual evolution; to truly manage our natural resources effectively we need to take a holistic approach, recognising the impact that we have on our natural environment but also the critical need in understanding it so that we can manage it more effectively and sustainably for the future. We need to be able to embed consideration of the natural environment and recognition of the services it provides to us within all decision making frameworks to ensure that in the future better decisions are made.
In Surrey this thinking has started to crystallise and has led to the development of the Valuing Surrey project. There are two key aspects of the project; the scale is critical, taking the local (county level) approach is essential because so much of the work we do is about local implementation, and secondly communication is key. There is very little point in developing a detailed, scientifically robust understanding of our natural capital assets in Surrey if we are not able to make this information relevant to the wide range of people who need to use it. The information needs to be used in an everyday way when decisions are being taken within the business world, by health & well-being professionals and many others.
There was a diverse group of attendees present at the Roundtable event ranging from developers to new business start-ups and representatives of other businesses. None of the participants were experts on the subject of natural capital but by the end of the session there was a clear understanding of not only its relevance to each participants particular business but also a shared, clear indication of what needs to be done to engender positive change.
The session will be led by Mark Pearson of Surrey Connects, a business-led economic development company, leading the Smart Economic Growth strategy. The interactive demonstration of storytelling to communicate with and engage varied stakeholders will be led by Ron Donaldson. We look forward to seeing you at the Conference and hope you’ll take the opportunity to join us and discover more.