• Matt Sykes

Tides change, Nature is #1 business priority

By Matt Sykes

This week it was encouraging to hear the G20 leaders declare that environmental issues, especially climate change, are the most critical of our time. While they juggle the pressing challenges of COVID-19, we can only ask ourselves where the resources to save our Earth will come from.

Regenerative business advisor? Martu carrying out landscape restoration burns in the Western Desert Region – Western Australia (Photo - Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa, Tim Schneider)

In 2021, governments will necessarily remain in reactive mode and the global economy is sure to face continued turbulence. Amidst this perfect storm, climate change and ecosystem degradation will not wait. So, in my opinion, business leaders are a unique position to exercise their relative agility and independence.

Over the last year we’ve witnessed a narrative shift, initiatives like the global Business For Nature Coalition recognise that #NatureIsEveryonesBusiness. Even the world’s foremost conservation leaders are repositioning beyond wildlife protection and towards ecosystem service management, a by-product of ecotourism’s collapse.

If businesses have the power, then some of the most catalysing conversations to regenerate our Earth will occur in boardrooms. There’s been much reporting around the lack of cultural diversity in the corporate world but equally pressing is the lack of ecological literacy. How can the CEO of a multinational corporation act on the 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration if they can’t interpret the lands and waterways upon which their business depends?

Circular Economy specialist. East Gippsland regenerative farmer Jarrod Ruch (Credit: Hope Seed Australia)

B Corp accreditation and 1% for the Planet membership only go so far. If we’re serious at tackling climate change and biodiversity loss at the systemic level, we must examine the very DNA of business decision-making. Based on an education which blends the best of western academia (think University of Cambridge) with decades learning from those closest to Nature (think slow time on Country with First Nations Elders), I see another way.

What if Boards started employing Indigenous Elders, Regenerative Farmers and Community Rangers? We’d start opening up a whole new realm of innovation and by harnessing their wisdom bets are we’d see more green and less red in our city’s circular economy modelling. Let’s also add Spiritual Healers and Environmental Artists to 2021’s Board recruitment lists. Seriously, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The fact that online meetings have become normalised means that access to skilled advisors has been radically accelerated, especially those based in remote areas. (aka those closest to the land)

After the Australian Black Summer bushfires, we've seen pioneer plants as the first to re-emerge (and yes, they battling with weeds). Acacia, also known as wattles, are one such pioneer plant and their role in the ecosystem is to fix nitrogen so that it becomes available for other plants to absorb from the soil. This will take them about 10-15 years to achieve, before they pass the baton onto longer-lived species to start their succession.

In parallel, the global economy will be going through a similar process, weeds and all. We only get one chance at this. So, if you are global business pioneer and it is your job to enrich the soil of our economy for future generations, then start by putting an Indigenous Elder or Regenerative Farmer in your boardroom advisory ASAP. If you’re a startup, read a book on Indigenous fire management or head down to your local farmers market. Then, listen deeply.

Future global business advisors? Rangers working across Kenya and Tanzania in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilaminjaro ecosystem (Left to Right - Ann Nairoshi, Ann Maloi, Linet Sailepu, Agnes Sopilal, Joyce Sereya, Veronica Lanoi. Credit - Biglife Foundation, courtesy of The Thin Green Line Foundation)

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