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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

NBS Explained

A range of NbS definitions exist. The  IUCN defines NbS as, ‘Actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.’ The Nature-based Solutions Initiative defines NbS as ‘working with nature to address societal challenges, providing benefits for both human well-being and biodiversity.’ The European Commission defines nature-based solutions as, ‘Solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience.’ 

While at the heart of these is a clearly discernible common concept, different framings and emphasises have generated confusion about the boundaries of the idea. 

At CISL we believe that a NbS should protect and support nature whilst providing a solution to a major issue. We also believe that solution should deliver real and tangible benefits to people, nature and climate, and while it may only be focused on one of these elements, such as climate, it should still deliver improvements across the board.

More important than the definition, however, is the focus on real world implementation - any NbS project must be delivered with adequate accountability and safeguards including clarity on the goal and how that goal is to be achieved. Unfortunately, this is often not the case today – partly because there is no consensus on the standards that such projects should meet.  

Nature-based solutions hub

Nature-Positive hub