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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Nature positive

Over the next ten years we must act urgently to turn around the nature crisis. This will require a transformation of our economic and financial systems to fully account for and actively protect and restore nature, as well as make changes to many aspects of how we live our lives. It will need a paradigm shift in how all of us view and value nature and mobilise resources to enable this transition.


A global goal for nature

There is a new, powerful global consensus that “our world must not only become net zero, but also nature-positive, for the benefit of both people and the planet.”   
Nature-positive is the term used to describe a world where nature – species and ecosystems - is being restored and is regenerating rather than declining. 

A nature-positive economy is one in which businesses, governments and others take action at scale to minimise and remove the drivers and pressures fuelling the degradation of nature, to actively improve the state of nature itself and to boost nature’s contribution to society. 

Under the UN Convention on Biodiversity governments from around the world are negotiating a new Global Goal for Nature which is set to include the target that the world should be nature-positive by 2030 in order that nature may fully recover by 2050.  

To deliver on this global goal for nature, business, government and financial institutions will have to act urgently and decisively. Commitments and action from businesses, governments and civil society are needed to create a new operating model based on regeneration, resilience and circularity not extraction, destruction and pollution.  


Business momentum towards nature-positive

Beyond the moral imperative, there is a compelling practical case for organisations across sectors to pursue nature-positive outcomes; be it the critical value of nature-based supply chains and ecosystem services; the health, resilience and security benefits that can be unlocked by effective policy; or how financial institutions can incorporate nature risks into lending and investment decisions. The bottom line is the same: business, policy and finance all have a stake in the transition to a nature-positive economy.  

A growing cohort of world leaders have signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature to reverse loss of biodiversity by 2030. More than 1000 businesses have called for nations to reverse loss of nature as soon as possible. In the finance sector, the new Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures will help direct investments towards a nature-positive future.  

For business and finance this new approach will require new strategies that transform their relationship with nature, safeguard their operations while at the same time take responsibility for their impacts on the natural world. It will require working together with government to start tackling the indirect drivers of nature loss, such as global trade, production and consumption of commodities, governance mechanisms and the values and behaviours of society.  


What we do   

CISL is committed to working with our partners in business, government and the finance system, plus our global leadership network of 16,000 individuals, to achieve a nature-positive future. Developing leadership capacity, both at the individual and organisational level, is where our unique contribution and strength lies. We do this in a variety of ways: by working with leaders to develop nature-positive strategies and plans; by supporting business with implementation challenges so they are able to turn commitment into practice; by creating actionable pathways for financial institutions to fund a nature-positive economy, by accelerating enterprises and collaborative initiatives with potential to offer breakthrough solutions; by building evidence and insight, to inform decision making; and, above all, by shaping the operating context for business in favour of organisations that deliver value to society and the environment.


Transforming organisations

Our Centre for Business Transformation
and Business Transformation Group develop new thinking and solutions to help business play a transformative role towards a sustainable economy.

Our Business and Nature team helps companies identify what the ecological crisis means for their businesses and transform their operations and strategies.

Our tailored strategy programmes for business help companies respond to global trends and achieve commercial impact.

Accelerating solutions 

Our Centre for Sustainable Finance works with banks and asset managers to empower financial institutions to recognise nature-related financial risks. It also convenes
banks and corporates to work towards
halting and reversing deforestation.  

Our research project with the We Mean Business Coalition aims to help businesses overcome barriers to implementing nature based solutions.  

Our Accelerator and Sustainability Hub supports small businesses and entrepreneurs to push boundaries towards
a nature-positive future.   


Transforming policy & markets

CISL is an active partner of Business for Nature which brings together influential organisations and forward-thinking businesses to call for policies that place nature at the heart of the global economy.   

CISL’s Catchment Leadership Network  gathers commitment and action for
a multisector approach to catchment management.  

Our Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation works with governments and businesses to understand how economic transformation can take place to a more environmentally sustainable and socially just economy and to advance this change. Our Corporate Leaders Groups bring together business leaders committed to supporting the transition to a net zero, nature-positive world.  




The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme fosters new thinking
on the protection of nature, leading to practical insights and tools for decision-makers. Projects range from enabling sustainable choices by consumers in the
UK to forging a health and environmentally
focused food system in Kenya, with a
strong focus on economic transitions.


Our leadership development programmes, Master's-level graduate courses in
sustainable business and flexible online sustainability courses and leadership training build the knowledge and capacity of teams and individuals to address nature related risks and opportunities. 


Impact stories

Our Modelling Better Business series showcases company initiatives we have supported to drive impact. These include Anglian Water's measurement framework for implementing its commitment to biodiversity and Nestlé's natural capital premium scheme which provides farmers with a price premium for taking practical measures to enhance the natural environment.



Tools for alignment and implementation  

We offer practical and strategic guidance, grounded in practitioner insights from exceptional people from business, policy and academia, to help leaders and organisations prepare for a nature-positive future. 


For businesses 

CISL’s corporate biodiversity strategy for
the fashion sector
 sets out how companies can create strategies to address their impacts,
on biodiversity. 

CISL’s Biodiversity Impact Metric aims to
help businesses manage their supply chain risks. 

CISL’s research on sustainable consumption explores pathways for reducing the carbon footprint of diets and encouraging
sustainable buying habits and research on healthy and nature-positive dietary
behaviour seeks to generate a roadmap of change for corporate practice and public policy for food system stakeholders in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CISL’s diagnostic tool for business, set out in Decision-making in a nature positive world is designed to advance organisational understanding of nature-based solutions projects and accelerate their adoption and implementation within companies.


For financial organisations

CISL's handbook helps financial institutions identify nature related financial risks.

CISL’s briefings map existing methods and tools that can be used to derive the financial materiality of biodiversity loss and land degradation

CISL’s Sustainable investment framework helps investment funds to reflect the impact of their activities against impact areas including healthy ecosystems.

Leveraging developments in financial technology to showcase how incentives can transform the sustainability of supply chains, CISL pioneered a sustainability data-for-benefits swap (Project Trado).

For policymakers

CLG’s Towards a sustainable food future for Europe explores how to make food systems more sustainable and Bridging the Gap focuses on the need for change in agriculture and land use to achieve net zero.

CISL’s Briefing on the EU Biodiversity Strategy emphasises the importance of biodiversity for human, as well as economic, health.

CISL’s working paper on Brexit, business and natural capital outlines how future policies have the potential to protect and improve natural capital . 



We are partners in the following initiatives/coalitions  

  • Business For Nature  is a global coalition that brings together business and conservation organisations and forward thinking companies.  
  • We Mean Business Coalition is a global nonprofit coalition working with the world’s most influential businesses to take action on climate change.  
  • Cambridge Conservation Initiative   is a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and nine leading internationally focused biodiversity conservation organisations based in and around Cambridge, UK.


Resources and research

Decision Making in a Nature-Positive World: Nature-based Solutions for sectors

4 July 2022

7 July 2022 – CISL has published four sector-specific business briefings that outline the challenges and actions needed to implement nature-based solutions projects. The sectors include: Water, Finance, Food and Beverage, and Built Environment and Linear Infrastructure.

Modelling nature-positive agriculture and land management: Case studies

13 June 2022

13 June 2022 – Two new regenerative nature project models from CISL, the East of England Landscape Enterprise Network , and Poole Harbour Nutrient Management Scheme offer blueprints for land management that supports improved biodiversity and water quality through more sustainable agriculture.

Mother Nature: sharpening our mind to the challenge ahead

28 March 2022

28 March 2022 - Dr Gemma Cranston, CISL’s Director for Business and Nature, reflects on the crucial role of nature, signals of positive change and the need for businesses, financiers and policy makers to align to deliver a nature-positive future.

Decision-making in a nature positive world: Accelerating the adoption of nature-based solutions

18 March 2022

21 March 2022 - Tom Divney, Business Engagement Consultant for the CISL Centre for Business Transformation, and CISL’s Dr Gemma Cranston, Director, Business & Nature, Centre for Business Transformation, explain how the new diagnostic tool, Decision-making in a nature positive world, accelerates the understanding and adoption of nature-based solutions in organisations.

Decision-making in a nature positive world

23 February 2022

15 March 2022 – CISL has published a diagnostic tool designed to advance organisational understanding of nature-based solutions projects and accelerate their adoption and implementation within companies.

Nature-related financial risks

24 January 2022

What are nature-related financial risks? Leading companies recognise that a prosperous business relies upon nature and the ecosystem services it provides. They also recognise that the ‘E’ in ‘ESG’ is about protecting our biodiversity and natural capital, as well as our climate, and that the two are...

Payments for Net Zero: How the payments industry can contribute to the transition to a net zero economy

28 October 2021

28 October 2021 - This business briefing explores the potential role and opportunities for payments networks in the transition to a net zero economy.

The Nature COP in Kunming opens today – a further step towards nature-positive targets for businesses

7 October 2021

11 October 2021 - Catherine Weller, from CISL’s Business & Nature team, explores expectations as the first part of the Kunming Nature COP gets underway and explains why business should be active in demanding clear and ambitious targets.

Unleashing the sustainable business

30 July 2021

July 2021 – These working papers summarise why a purpose-driven approach to business is the optimum route to create a durable, equitable and sustainable future, and how to move from theory to practice.

Enhancing Biodiversity in Europe’s Oilseed and Cereal Industries

27 July 2021

August 2021 - A new report from University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Biodiversify examines what private sector actors in the oilseed and cereal industry can do to conserve biodiversity on arable farmland in Europe to ultimately inspire them to take action towards best practice. The aim of this work funded by an ADM Cares grant to the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability leadership was to examine the question: What can private sector actors in the oilseed and cereal industries do to conserve biodiversity on arable farmland in Europe?