Mangroves, mollusks, and more are being put to work to effectively address the climate crisis and environmental degradation. Take climate action at your company by exploring these nature-based solutions.
For the nonprofit team at Protectores de Cuencas in Puerto Rico, trees mean everything. They are a food source, a means of controlling invasive plant species, and a reliable way to prevent flooding. And tree planting, like what they’ve done in Puerto Rico’s unique Guanica State Forest with support from corporate partners, has grown into a popular symbol of climate action. As companies jump on board the worldwide effort to mitigate the climate crisis, some are slowly recognizing that nature may hold the key.
For corporate leaders weighing the benefits of trees and other nature-based solutions, it’s important to consider the multitude of ways to plug into this growing focus area. Corporations can be part of this climate work by implementing nature-based alternatives to their own business practices or by funding community-led nonprofits driving the change.
Here are just some of the reasons your company might consider investing in nature-based solutions.
1. Trees prevent damage from growing climate hazards.
Without mangrove forests, wetlands and coastal communities experience more than $65 billion of additional flood damage costs each year. Our nonprofit partner OISCA International’s work in Fiji has demonstrated just how powerful mangrove forests can be. The coastal Fijian communities they work with have always been vulnerable to cyclones. As protection, they built breakwaters by stacking piles of rocks. However, the rocks gradually collapsed in successive storms. As an alternative, OISCA introduced mangrove planting and community members determined this nature-based solution to be more effective in protecting them from disasters. In Japan, an insurance company has funded mangrove restoration for two decades, which they promote as “insurance for the future of the Earth.”
2. Plants reduce the maintenance needed for infrastructure.
We know vegetation stabilizes the soil and prevents erosion. And there’s been success with the creation of green corridors under electricity lines. Utility companies have historically sought to control nature, trimming and chopping down trees and other plants near their electrical wires. But in Europe, thoughtful planting practices have transformed more than 1,200 acres into “green corridors” that reduce risk of wildfires, are conducive for wildlife to thrive, and reduce long-term costs for ongoing maintenance. And in the grasslands of south Texas, Coastal Prairie Conservancy received support from GlobalGiving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to protect more acres of coastal prairie and wetlands as a nature-based solution to hold back floodwaters and sequester carbon.
3. Nature provides services like water filtration.
In Portland, Maine, healthy forests replaced the need for a water filtration plant, saving the city an estimated $100+ million over 20 years. In the Greater Houston area, Bayou City Waterkeeper trains residents and community leaders to create projects like rain gardens that capture excess stormwater. In New York City’s harbor, where there were once 220,000 acres of oyster reefs, the nonprofit Billion Oyster Project is seeking to put these “ecosystem engineers” to work. Each individual mollusk can filter 50 gallons of water per day, and the reefs that oyster populations build can provide coastal protection, too. The project has seen significant support from Wall Street firms seeking clean water and storm safety for their city.
4. Keeping ecosystems intact avoids costly environmental taxes and fines.
In the United States alone, environmental “offsets” and other payments for ecosystem degradation cost companies as much as $3.8 billion per year. Some companies purchase third-party “offsets” to mitigate their emissions, but these are increasingly under scrutiny. Major European airlines have been accused of using carbon offsets to mislead customers about their sustainability. In 2022, US airline JetBlue pivoted from purchasing offsets to focusing on reducing their emissions through sustainable aviation fuel investments and giving to nature-based projects in the places where they fly.
5. Investing in green jobs and technology may open doors to special incentives.
Whether you’re seeking to replant mangrove forest ecosystems or rebuild oyster colonies to protect shorelines, a return to nature most often requires workers. Jobs that preserve or restore the environment—whether in agriculture, industry, services, or administration—are critical for sustainable development. That’s why there’s free or reduced price training available for some of these roles. Meanwhile, US government incentives are reducing the cost of technologies like solar and encouraging energy-efficient buildings, and the European Commission may follow with similar benefits for businesses soon.
If your company is looking to put some funding into nature-based solutions, there is no shortage of community-led organizations doing this work.
Learn how your business can invest in nature—and the local leaders who know best.
Featured Photo: DONATE A TREE: CAPTURE THE CARBON by Friendship