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WSP's senior VP and NY water business line leader, Jennifer Brunton, previews the panel discussion on accelerating the business case for nature-based solutions, which she will be presenting on at Environment Analyst's Global Business Summit (27-28 June, Chicago)

Humans will continue to leave an imprint on our planet. Nature-based solutions leverage the functions and processes of natural systems to achieve economic and social benefits while accomplishing and augmenting environmental goals and benefits, such as mitigating ecosystem degradation and climate change, to meet the goals of the United Nations’ (UN) Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

WSP USA supports this UN initiative by helping our clients identify opportunities to improve their projects by combining environmental stewardship with functional design that accomplish their objectives.

Biodiversity progress

Biodiversity loss has been linked to the climate crisis, and with roughly one million plant and animal species worldwide threatened with extinction — many within just decades — the current rate of biodiversity loss worldwide is unprecedented.

Therefore, when developing biodiversity strategies, it is important to assess the true impact of a project — such as coastal flood protection — or a company’s value chain on biodiversity, to evaluate key nature-related risks and opportunities, and to improve our understanding of how nature loss translates into financial risk. It’s also crucial to involve local communities in the planning and designing process to effectively develop large-scale solutions that generate the greatest impact.

Our clients invest considerable financial resources into their projects, which is why owners and investors tend to favor more conventional solutions, as they’re considered to be cost-effective and efficient. But many traditional approaches do not consider the full lifecycle costs, or the costs of direct and secondary impacts associated with engineered solutions, such as damage and repair or the cascading impacts of interrupted ecosystem functions.

Accounting for nature

It is widely understood that you can't improve what you don't measure. Although nature provides benefits to our economy, health, the climate, environmental justice and even our national security, our existing financial models and indicators do not account for nature’s role in these factors. There is no standardized approach to measuring natural capital and ecosystem services. While companies may have an abstract understanding of their impacts and dependencies on nature, many do not yet have quantified targets related to biodiversity or becoming ‘nature positive’.

But momentum is building. After the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in December, when more than 196 countries agreed to a new 10-year Global Biodiversity Framework, we have a clear path forward. This includes protecting more areas for nature, restoring damaged ecosystems, shifting finance and subsidies towards nature-friendly activities, and holding businesses accountable for their impacts on the environment.

Corporate leaders are asking for metrics and targets that will help them understand the risks and opportunities associated with nature. They want to know how nature affects their operations and how they can mitigate risks while generating positive change.

This is another crucial step towards implementing broad and effective nature-based actions to protect the planet and the sustainability of businesses worldwide.

Jennifer Brunton

Jennifer Brunton, Senior Vice President and NY Water Business Line Leader, WSP 

Jennifer Brunton, a Senior Vice President at WSP USA Inc., is an accomplished civil and environmental engineer with over 25 years of experience characterizing and developing solutions for water resource-related challenges. Her niche expertise lies in meshing engineering and ecology principles to enhance the natural and built environment. 

With an impressive track record of contributing to the protection and resiliency planning of miles of shoreline and the restoration of over 1,000 acres of habitat, including 12 miles of stream restoration, Jennifer's extensive experience and expertise in biodiversity and nature-based solutions has made her a respected figure in the field of environmental conservation and sustainability. Her contributions to enhancing the natural and built environment, and her passion for creating a positive, inclusive culture continues to inspire others in the industry.

Hear more from Jennifer at Environment Analyst’s upcoming Global Business Summit (27-28 June, Chicago), where Jennifer will be sharing his insights on developing robust and transparent nature-based solutions to deliver real economic, environmental and social benefits, during a panel discussion.

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The Summit will also provide crucial intelligence on how sustainability and ESG drivers are impacting the North American market and how to respond to these. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity to connect with over 150 sustainability consulting leaders, clients and stakeholders.