Subscriber OnlyLife & Style

‘Biodiversity is not just about planting trees and having flowers for the bees. It’s about fresh water, food, fibre, tech’

Game Changers: Bioscientist and entrepreneur Lucy Gaffney is leading an initiative aimed at helping businesses become nature positive

It has taken longer than it should but now we have a better understanding of runaway carbon emissions and their catastrophic effect on our world. Renewable energy is our energy future, whether oil, gas and coal producers like it or not.

To get to that future safely we need to get there quickly. Our catastrophic effect on the natural world, the great dying-off of the more-than-human life around us, has felt like a second-fiddle crisis. But it is urgent.

“The conversation has moved on now,” Lucy Gaffney says. A bioscientist and entrepreneur, Gaffney believes the public expects businesses to do more, and companies are increasingly required to account for their impact on the natural world.

Gaffney is leading the Business for Biodiversity platform, launched last month to “engage and mobilise businesses and empower them” to become “nature positive”. But as consumers still grapple with terms and find so little in the way of regulation, will we be able to trust company claims to be nature positive?


The term “hasn’t been clearly defined, like a lot of terms in this new dictionary, so it does risk becoming a ‘climate-neutral, eco-friendly blah’ kind of term,” Gaffney agrees. But she believes it is now “understood and accepted” by businesses that they need to reduce their negative impacts and increase their positive ones. “We need to take the information out there and distil it into the language that businesses can digest, and when I say businesses, what I’m talking about is people.”

People are “struggling with trying to navigate this new landscape,” and part of the role of the platform will be to “translate science into business-speak”.

The national hub will provide what they’re calling “an easy-to-follow roadmap which aims to demystify the multitude of biodiversity frameworks, guidance documents and tools for businesses facing new legislation on reporting their impacts on nature”. Although the reporting requirements apply to large companies, this year Gaffney is interested in talking to small and medium enterprises, as they make up so much of economic activity in Ireland, and will be being asked by larger companies to account for their impact. “I want SMEs to understand this for themselves so they don’t have to bring in consultancies.”

Collaboration and peer learning will be part of the process, trying to “bring everyone along together and make them feel they’re a part of it”.

Biodiversity is not just about planting trees and having flowers for the bees. It’s about fresh water, food, fibre, tech.” Everything we rely on comes from the natural world so we need a “whole-of-society approach”, she says. “Nature positive is not a destination ... It is a mindset – a way of working that ensures economic activity no longer harms the natural world but actively invests in its stewardship, protection and restoration.”