skip to content

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Bumble bee

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is committed to working to address the crisis facing nature throughout our work to convene, educate, innovate and provide the required foresight to effect change and grow an economy that is fundamentally nature positive.

We know that:

1. Nature underpins the functioning of society and the economy – but the biosphere is in crisis, the crisis is urgent, and the rate of species decline is getting worse

Current species extinction rates are higher than at any time in human history. Around 1 million species are currently at risk of extinction. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse is considered the fourth-highest global risk currently facing humanity. As the variety of species – biodiversity – decreases, natural systems are less resilient and therefore less able to provide us with the services that are so critical to our continued prosperity, health and wellbeing, such as pollination and soil health for food crops, and clean water. 

2. Human action is the cause of this crisis – and must be the solution

Our actions have caused the current nature crisis – but our unique understanding, capacity for coordinated action, and will to succeed can deliver the transformative change needed to address the problem. While we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge, change is possible, and emerging examples exist of the innovation, creativity and mindset shifts needed to achieve it. The ambition of the Global Biodiversity Framework to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 provides a framework in which to act, helping address the failure of the economy to properly value and protect nature.

3. We need to scale up and accelerate transformative action throughout our economy

There is an urgent need to increase action on nature and transform our economy. The signing of the Global Biodiversity Framework in 2022, louder voices from the business and finance community calling for nature action and increasing policy attention to the plight of nature show that momentum is building. However, this has not yet shown the necessary impact implying a need to increase and accelerate collective action towards a nature positive future.


Our response

For CISL, with our mission to activate leadership for a sustainable economy, we are focused on how economic systems must be redesigned to work in harmony with nature by placing protection and restoration, rather than degradation and overconsumption, at their heart. An economy that is nature positive will be stronger and more resilient.

We also know that sustainability efforts to date have often focused heavily on climate change – and ignored wider environmental issues – but these issues are also urgent and significant. CISL is clear we have to tackle the nature and climate crisis as one. We must set the bar high for meaningful action to achieve net zero while protecting and restoring nature. We must integrate nature loss risks into assessments of climate change risk, and avoid unintended impacts of climate solutions upon nature. We also know that action on environmental issues like nature, must be with the engagement and for the longer-term benefit of people and communities.

Through our work with businesses, policymakers and financial institutions, as well as influential partner organisations and our broader network, we work in the following areas to address the crisis in nature.

CISL works to:

1. Build momentum, engagement and understanding around alternative views of and approaches to the economy that incorporate and support nature.

Nature and economic activity cannot be competing priorities. Economic activity depends on the environment and the benefits it provides to humanity. We need to develop and grow new ways of thinking about economic activity that allow us to operate in ways that respect longer term and wider outcomes. A healthy natural environment, and economic structures that support this, are key components of a more resilient, holistic and inclusive economic system.

2. Embed nature in economic and financial decision making.

Decision makers need to identify, analyse and act on challenges and opportunities  to ensure positive outcomes are achieved for people, nature and climate. Economic decision makers must consider their impacts on nature, and the opportunities that action on nature can bring, or risk putting the viability of our whole economy at risk.  Specifically, to achieve this goal, we work to:

  • Place nature at the heart of policymaking and regulation. Only by delivering effective stewardship of nature will policy makers be able to provide the security and prosperity that underpin people’s livelihoods and sense of wellbeing. Strong policy incentives will be instrumental in determining the success of our efforts to revitalise nature. Our business leadership group, CLG Europe signed a public letter to the European Parliament urged them to support the EU Nature Restoration Law.
  • Integrate nature as a core component of business models and strategy setting. Think differently about business models to ensure they restore and protect nature rather than destroy it, building on an understanding that there can be no business on a dead planet. We support Business for Nature’s  High-level Business Actions on Nature and in partnership with the Fashion Pact created the first industry specific primer to navigate the new target-setting guidance from the Science Based Targets Network.
  • Redirect financial flows in support of nature. Financing the transition to an economy that works with nature requires knowledge and understanding of the many ways businesses impact – and depend on – the natural world. Addressing nature loss will address material financial risks and open up new opportunities. Our market leading Nature-related Financial Risks hand-book and use cases explain key concepts linked to nature loss and financial risk and provide guidance for risk identification.

3. Support individual behaviour changes that allow everyone to live more in harmony with nature.

Understanding the barriers individuals face in making everyday decisions that benefit nature, and how these can be overcome, requires joined-up thinking from policymakers and businesses to encourage behaviour that supports a nature-positive pathway. Collaborations we convened enabled stakeholders to rethink existing business models to eliminate plastic packaging waste.

4. Develop shared approaches to natural assets like land and water that allow them to be managed in a way that protects and restores thriving ecosystems and communities.

Limited natural assets like land and water will be increasingly critical to meet both people’s increasing needs but also provide space for nature and biodiversity, and continue to provide a way to reduce rather than contribute to climate change. Collaboration is key to managing our natural assets in a way that benefits nature while continuing to meet people’s needs into the future. Indigenous knowledge and the need to engage stakeholders including local communities in discussions around natural asset management is critical. Our regenerative nature-positive agriculture and land management models offer a blueprint that support improved biodiversity and water quality.

5. Shift value chains and industries and supply chains to address the drivers of nature destruction.

Economic production processes must be rethought to minimises impacts on nature, particularly in critical sectors such as fashion, food and agriculture and water management. Our CLG Europe Policy Briefing explores how to make food systems more sustainable by looking at solutions from production to consumption and waste.

To reverse nature loss this decade, we need to work with business, government and finance to achieve the positive outcomes for nature that are also critical for our future economic and social prosperity. This will require understanding, innovation, collaboration and a critical mass of actors coming together in recognition of the urgency of the problem; our role is to support the decision makers that will accelerate this transition, providing them with the tools, safe spaces, insight and rationale they need to set us on an irreversible trajectory to a more harmonious relationship with the natural world.  

Read more about our work to drive a nature positive economy Nature-Positive Hub | Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)