Reflecting on the Nature Positive journey
In this article, we interview Stephanie Wray, the founder and Managing Director of Nature Positive, as she reflects on the business’s journey since its launch in 2020.
When did you start Nature Positive?
Nature Positive has been a long time in gestation. We’ve done bits of Nature Positive’s work through our sister company RSK Biocensus for a few years now, but we really started the business in earnest in September 2020.
We launched the website and made a public splash about a year later in 2021, but before we did that, we wanted to have a few case studies and clients under our belt.
How did you come up with the name?
There were a lot of other names beforehand! We had almost come to register the company under a completely different name (The Business and Biodiversity Consultancy – does what it says on the tin), when one of our friends and colleagues, who works in the voluntary sector, mentioned casually that the term ‘nature positive’ is really getting a lot of use these days.
I chatted to the other directors and we all agreed it was the perfect name for the company, so we registered it. I’m really glad we did, because they were quite right, and nature positive is really starting to gain some traction. It’s like if you’d had the foresight to call your carbon consultancy Net-Zero in the 1990s.
Is there a story behind the frog on the logo?
We had a whole variety of ideas, with different logos drawn up that we discussed between the founders. Some had animals or plants and some were just text. We didn’t want the logo to seem too much like an NGO or, as we are ecologists, to be taken too literally (“oh you work on badgers”, etc.)
We got some external advice from a marketing consultant, who said “definitely not the frog, no, you need a logo that’s just letters”. I went back to the team with various options in the end, but the response was “no, we love the frog, we’ve got to have the frog”. We took a lot of advice from our marketing consultant, but this was the one bit we didn’t take, and we kept the frog.
What are some of the steps that led you to create Nature Positive/where did you get the idea for Nature Positive?
I guess it was the parallels with carbon consultancy. Biodiversity consulting had always been very much at the project level, with people looking for biodiversity net gain on a particular project or making sure that they didn’t harm protected species. We were concerned that at board level, when people were talking about their corporate responsibility, they weren’t really addressing biodiversity or any aspects of how they used natural resources. For me, that was a real mistake and an opportunity lost. People are very much focused on climate change, but climate change isn’t the problem. Climate change is a symptom of the problem; the problem is the unsustainable use of resources. That’s what Nature Positive’s about – having a positive and regenerative impact on natural resources.
What goal are you working towards?
It sounds a bit of a lofty goal, but I suppose we’re trying to work towards what’s in the global post-2020 biodiversity framework: a world living in harmony with nature. And to get there, we’re picking off one company at a time. We’re trying to help people to live within planetary limits.
What have been your highlights so far?
I think the highlight for me was COP26, because there was so much interest in biodiversity. It felt like for the first time, the climate change COP really got on board with the idea that it was intrinsically linked with biodiversity and that we could no longer look at carbon in isolation.
We curated a great event at COP26 with lots of companies and partners that we’ve been working with, and it was the most positive event on corporate social responsibility (CSR) that I think I’ve ever been to. We had great feedback from all the attendees, so I think it was a real moment that made me think that business is on board with this.
It needs to be normal: sustainability needs to be how we do business. I was speaking to a banker the other day and he was talking about sustainability-linked loans and how he wanted to move towards that being all lending – wouldn’t that be great when a sustainability-linked loan was just a loan!
Have there been any low points? If so, are there any lessons to be learned?
I think, to some extent, we were a victim of our own early success, and we got very busy in the delivery of projects, working with lots of clients and doing exciting things. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep moving in the right direction; maybe we just got so busy that we lost a bit of direction in 2021. Now that we’ve got a few more staff and I’ve got a bit more headspace available, we’ve been able to get back on course and carve out our own niche.
Can you summarise 2021 in three words?
Busy, challenging and hopeful.
Over the next year, how do you see Nature Positive growing?
We are set for some significant growth over the next year. I think we will certainly have doubled in size in terms of the number of people and tripled in terms of turnover in the next year. We have a lot of meetings with clients and potential clients and everyone I talk to understands that they need to be thinking about what we do. Not everybody is ready for it, but everyone understands they need to get a hold of this. I think, with the launch of the methodology for science-based targets for nature (SBTN) and nature-related financial disclosures, people are going to be increasingly aware of it and then demand is going to increase exponentially.
The question is really about the capacity in the industry. It’s not the feeling of “aren’t we lucky we’re going to corner this market” because we couldn’t grow fast enough to service it. It’s a matter of being collaborative and working with other organisations to make sure that, collectively, we deliver on this.
Looking forward, what are your big ambitions for Nature Positive?
Well first of all, I’d like to make myself redundant *laughs*, which might sound strange. I still want to be involved with Nature Positive, but I’ve always had a strategy in any business that I’ve worked in of hiring people who are better than me. I want to get really great people in who have ideas and skills that can take Nature Positive off in new directions and do great things. I want to make it a place where we can grow talented people with the space to do things their own way and find new ways of solving problems. That’s what it is for me, bringing in diverse talent and giving them space to be fantastic.
If you had unlimited resources, what would be the one thing you would do to improve Nature Positive?
You mean after the Barbados office *laughs*? You know, it’s a simple business model – we get clever people to give companies advice they really need. We don’t need a lot of kit. So, I guess it would just be about hiring more quickly instead of slowly adding staff incrementally as projects require. I would cherry-pick some fantastic hires before I desperately needed them, which would give us all a bit of headspace.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
*laughs* That presupposes that I’ve got some free time, doesn’t it?
I’ve got quite a lot of dogs, so there’s always an element of walking involved. But otherwise, I enjoy painting, although I’m very bad at it, and I sometimes write poetry, which I know you’re not supposed to do when you’re a scientist *laughs*. I’m very much at the creative rather than the practical end of the spectrum, so I won’t be found doing DIY, but I might just be sitting outside looking at a blade of grass and contemplating the exact shade of green it is.
(image source: Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg on Unsplash)
Whilst it’s been a hectic start to Nature Positive, there are lots of things to look forward to in helping businesses to grow sustainably.
Feeling inspired? Do you think you are a fantastic person to join our growing team? If so, contact us.
Nature Positive article authors: Steph Wray & Luka Brown
*Banner photo by Sam Barber on Unsplash