Podcast
August 2, 2022

The Business of Nature Restoration

In our conversation with Ben Goldsmith, a long-time and passionate environmental campaigner and green investor, and Ben Hart, a carbon reduction and natural capital specialist, we will address the business imperative of restoring global biodiversity, uncover the commercial opportunities and highlight the key levers to navigating the road to nature restoration with high impact and integrity.

Book recommendations:

  • Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet by George Monbiot

Useful links:

Transcript

Saif Hameed:
This Is Altruistic where we speak with pioneers in the race to zero and unpack the lessons from their experience for you, our community of impact professionals. I'm your host Saif Hameed and in this episode we're going to talk about the ecological and commercial case for putting nature restoration at the forefront of the climate agenda. The recent IPCC working group report highlighted the importance of tackling the climate and ecological emergencies together. When we talk about the climate crisis we so often talk about the challenges we face reversing biodiversity loss, perhaps more so than the opportunities it presents. In our conversation with Ben Goldsmith, a long time environmental campaigner and green investor and Ben Hart a passionate carbon reduction and natural capital specialist. We'll address the business imperative of restoring global biodiversity, uncover the commercial opportunities and identify the key business levers to address and restore nature loss. Could I ask maybe each of you to just say a line or two of introduction to tell our listeners who you are and what you're excited about?

Ben Goldsmith:
Sure, so I'm Ben Goldsmith. I am a lifelong nature lover and from a professional perspective I run a green investment fund and that's the line of work I've been in since I began my career. I've set up two sustainability themed investment management companies and I also devote a good chunk of my time towards advocating for nature recovery in various forms and particularly rewilding here in Britain.

Ben Hart:
Brilliant. Hi, I'm Ben Hart. I am passionate about having an impact on climate change and nature recovery. As Ben, I've been doing this for my whole career since I left university. Started off working in the solar sector and energy efficiency projects and then spent a lot of time as a carbon sustainability consultant working with large corporates on net zero targets and programs to save carbon and energy. Over the last couple of years I've been working on natural capital projects mostly at Highlands Rewilding, which used to be Bunloit Rewilding up in Scotland and understanding what's going on in the natural capital space.

Saif Hameed:
Thank you both. Ben Goldsmith, over the several years now that we've actually known each other, been friends and worked together. I think there's no better term that comes to mind to describe you and your kind of wide range of interests than biophilia. So the human innate nature or instinct to connect with nature and other living beings. What I've always been excited about is that it's almost intrinsic for you. You gravitate towards these causes, you espouse many different initiatives in this space. How has the environment actually defined your career trajectory and what brought you to this?

Ben Goldsmith:
I like the term biophilia, it's a writer called E.O. Wilson coined it to describe the innate love that all human beings have for the non-human world and he points out that in many people that biophilia somehow falls dormant. It's still there, it's still present but it's dormant. But the way we know it's still there is if you go to a London park when the sun comes out, everybody is thronging in that patch of green space. If you look at real estate prices in London apartments which overlook Hyde Park will sell for twice in equivalent to a apartment which doesn't. On some level we all crave contact with nature and in my case I think as with everyone else, I had a deep fascination for wildlife and nature as a small child. My most positive experiences as a child were those that were associated in one way or another with the natural world and that love of nature only grew stronger as I grew older.

Ben Goldsmith:
So it became obvious to me that I would want to devote a good chunk of my time if not all of it towards reversing some of the worrying trends we see all around us. If you open a children's story book in Britain and you care to choose any species that is considered iconic, a turtle dove, which has been the symbol of love through the ages. Well, they're down 97% in my lifetime. Nightingales have been the object of poetry and literature and art and the symbol of the British summer really and who's heard a nightingale, I've never heard a nightingale in the wild, numbers have crashed. Hedgehogs. Any species you care to choose is on a precipitous downward trajectory. So if you love nature that's very worrying and the good news is it can be turned around very quickly. The stories of Knepp rewilding project in Sussex, that iconic place or more recently Bunloit where Ben Hart on your screen has been working. Shows that nature can enter a J curve and can recover incredibly quickly if you just take your foot off its throat and so that's what interests me.

Saif Hameed:
I think that what I always find really interesting is some of the dividing lines as well as synergies frankly between a few of the different topics in this very broad space and you and I started a nonprofit some time ago, the Pakistan Environment Trust. I remember when we were actually defining the agenda for that there was a rich discussion in our team around the focus on climate versus environment and versus nature. Could you maybe just say a little bit more for those of our listeners who aren't innately familiar necessarily with the dividing lines between some of these topics. What do you see as some of the trade offs? How do you prioritize between these if necessary?

Ben Goldsmith:
So I'm broadly optimistic, perhaps naively the world will figure out how to decarbonize human civilization. Now I'm optimistic that power generation is moving very fast towards renewables. That the heat we use in our homes, the way in which we transport ourselves around, the way we manufacture stuff. I think a lot of this is going in the right direction and I figure that to some degree or other we will decarbonize. The point is though is that if we don't simultaneously end our multifaceted assault on the natural world and if we don't begin to restore the terribly depleted natural fabric of our planet then we're toast. We know this, just from a climate perspective we're toast. Not to mention all of the other things on which we depend utterly which are provided by nature. I always think it's quite interesting the science that is emerging around the mini ice age of 1650 to 1850. The temperatures in the world are thought to have declined by around two degrees during those 200 years.

Ben Goldsmith:
The Thames used to freeze over, there's lots of drawings and lithographs and reports of circuses and fairs that took place in the middle of winter on the Thames in central London the last year in which the Thames froze was 1847. They believe the scientists that the reason why temperatures dropped so dramatically for those 200 years is because of the terrible genocide that took place in south central and north America. In which somewhere around 49 or so of the 50 or so million natives were dead within a few short years of the arrival of the Europeans and therefore huge amounts of agricultural land were abandoned and an enormous vegetation pulse occurred as forests regrew. Out of that genocide global temperatures dropped a couple of degrees and what that shows is that if we allow nature to restore itself and that's not just trees. But ecosystems of all kinds, coastal salt marshes, sea grasses. I learned recently that sea grasses absorb light for light 10 times more carbon dioxide per acre than rainforests.

Ben Goldsmith:
Grasslands, peak bogs. If we allow nature to restore itself it will be our greatest ally in slowing and reversing climate change. So it's not one or other, we need to do both. We need to decarbonize and we need to fix the natural mantle of the world.

Saif Hameed:
Ben Hart, your career has in many ways navigated multiple aspects of this trade off, right? In some ways it almost seems outside in that you've moved from being very carbon oriented towards being very nature restoration oriented and I'm sure there's a spectrum across that. But just charting from carbon intelligence and the other numerous organizations where you've added tremendous value over towards now nature and biodiversity restoration. How have you seen this sort of transition and kind of how have you made the choices that you've made and are you optimistic given the experiences you've had?

Ben Hart:
Yeah, I think I am. You kind of have to be really working this space. There's a lot of bad news out there and Ben's mentioned some of the stats. We are in the UK one of the most native depleted nations in the world. But what that does mean is that we have an opportunity to turn that around and we can once we let nature go to be quite dramatic about it. What I see with biodiversity is kind of where carbon was maybe eight years ago or maybe where solar panels or solar energy was 20 years ago. Jeremy Leggett, who's the founder of the Bunloit Project I've been working on. He set at one of the UK's kind of first solar companies and he built that into one of the biggest solar companies in the UK. At the time when they set the solar market up no one really knew what was happening, it was quite a risky investment and there was lots of different ways of trying to work that, and lots of people laughed and said solar would never be a working technology.

Ben Hart:
Fast forward to 25 years and now it's the cheapest form of electricity going and then working in carbon. I spent the first half of my career as a carbon consultant, trying to persuade companies and boards that they should care about carbon footprints and safe carbon because you're saving energy and therefore you're saving money. It wasn't really until maybe two, three years ago, just before the pandemic where things started to become interesting. Through the pandemic actually everyone started to focus on the green area and the carbon and that was driven by a lot of policy but also a lot of changes in the market in terms of understanding risks as well. So I think now every company I know, every carbon consultant needs extra 20 staff. The last company I worked for has doubled in size in about a year and a half and there's a lot of focus on climate and what I'm seeing is the building on from the net zero piece. Because often the net bit of net zero is how can we offset our carbon footprint that we can't get rid of?

Ben Hart:
Look at tree planting, look at carbon restoration programs and then I think that started to bring in an understanding of impacts on natural systems. I can see that coming a lot faster than maybe we had with carbon and solar and it's really exciting actually. I'm really interested to see how that's going to play out.

Saif Hameed:
Ben Hart I fully agree with you. One of the big advantages that we have with nature and biodiversity today is that the overall momentum around this category of topics is so much higher versus what we had around de carbonization 20, 30 years ago. So there's a lot of tailwind there. When you look at the solar comparison that you gave, one of the big accelerators of course now on carbon is actually the technology trends and the ability to get efficiencies, cost reductions, scalability. When you look at the nature space, what are some of the interesting technology applications, room for technology potential there that you see? Either at a thematic level or at specific technologies that you think are actually going to become much cheaper and more efficient over time?

Ben Hart:
Yeah, that's a really interesting question and it's something we've been doing a lot of work up in the Highlands and specifically working on the Bunloit Estate. We've released a natural capital report at COP last November, which was our attempt to look at the entire market and try and work out the most granular way of assessing the natural capital stocks, the carbon, the biodiversity stocks on the estate. What's really exciting is that the lots of new technology that's all coming together in the understanding of what's going on with the nature systems. So just as an example, in the technologies we look at there's lots of work going around with EDNA. So environmental DNA, looking at DNA in soils, looking at DNA in water, invertebrates. We worked with a couple of companies looking at using drones and LIDAR surveys, where they would fly across the estates and create 3D images of all of the biomass on the estate. So the trees and the bushes and whatnot, and then that can be inferred to understand what's going on in terms of habitats.

Ben Hart:
But also looking at woody biomass and therefore carbon stored in those systems and then lots of work around satellite and remote sensing and looking at habitat changes over time. So there's lots of really exciting tech that's coming through. It's all quite new and it's very much where the startup space is at the moment, is trying to understand what tech we can use to make things easier, cheaper and to be able to do it at scale. What we are discovering is there's still very much a need for on the ground ecologist assessments and ground truthing of all of the high tech stuff. But it's a really exciting combination of that using the technology and using the existing specialists to essentially measure and map our baselines and then obviously our changes over time in the carbon and biodiversity stocks.

Saif Hameed:
One of the aspects that both of you Ben's have touched on just now is around the value creation aspect, right? I mean Ben Goldsmith started off almost talking about the real estate appreciation that you get from natural spaces. Ben Hart, a lot of the nature and the shape of your description around technologies is inherently value creative and what value addition can we get from applying some of these technology use cases. Do you think there's actually a very tangible economic value that we can even quantify from nature restoration here? How do you go about it in a way that doesn't present let's say the very high level multi-trillion dollar figure, but rather something a bit more tangible that individuals, policy makers and business can grapple with?

Ben Goldsmith:
I think there are two trends which are particularly exciting in England. The first is that the English government has changed the way payments are handed out from the state to farmers. So the world's governments hand out $700 billion in aggregate to farmers in the form of largely unconditional subsidies. England is the first country on the world to tie those subsidies to public goods. They're calling the scheme public money for public good and what farmers will have to deliver is in effect the stewardship and restoration of soil and nature. So the government is recognizing in its flagship rural payments policy, the intrinsic economic and societal value of healthy soil and nature and that is a massive transformation. Because farmers in the globalized market in which we operate in a highly industrialized nation like England are not the most competitive and many operate in a suboptimal economic condition and therefore are reliant on government handouts. If those government handouts become contingent upon environmental restoration and stewardship then restoration and stewardship is what we'll get over great sways of our landscape.

Ben Goldsmith:
It's a massive shift and I know that countries around the world are watching to see how that pans out here in England. Especially in the context of increased global food prices and the threat of global food shortages and the trade off between food security and environmental stewardship and restoration. Which of course is a false trade off because the greatest threat in this country and everywhere to long term food security is the degradation of the natural systems and the soil on which farming depends. The second trend that I think is very interesting is the shift to a situation where companies outside of government are paying landowners to change the way they manage their land, because it makes economic sense for them to do so. So an example is Wessex Water faced with the prospect of having to build an extremely expensive piece of the water purification kit in pool, endorse it. Decided to look at an alternative which was to pay landowners in that catchment to effectively deliver cleaner water through the catchment, by changing the way they manage their land.

Ben Goldsmith:
Fewer chemicals, more nature, more sustainable farming and the trade off was an extremely good one for Wessex Water and they ended up canning the proposal to build a water treatment plant and to this day they pay farmers throughout the pool catchment to manage their land differently. The result is cleaner water and cost savings all around and the payments to those farmers are far greater than anything they were getting from the state and that team within Wessex Water have now spun out to create a business called Entrade and Entrade is establishing 12 identical markets or similar markets up and down the country. In fact, I live in the middle of one of them in South Somerset and I've had a letter through the post saying, "Please come to the town hall, please learn about this new marketplace. There will be some very generous payments on offer for those farmers who are willing to change the way they manage their land to deliver a slower flow of water and cleaner water through the catchment."

Ben Goldsmith:
So these private markets for the environmental services provided by healthy nature are on the upswing and I think that's a massive move. Because that's how we solve this problem in part, is to embed into decision making a rational set of economic analyses around the value of nature. What is a mangrove worth as a source of flood protection, as a source of sand for the beaches on which tourism depends, as a nursery for the fish that we eat and so on. What is that really worth in economic terms? In many cases we'll find that the natural state of the ecosystem is worth a hell of a lot more than we thought and significantly more than the alternatives. Which are to destroy that ecosystem and replace it with something else. So I think that's part of the answer. We began with spirituality and I think that's the other part of the answer, is to call upon people's innate biophilia and to reconnect people on an individual level and collectively with the natural world and to reawaken that biophilia in as many people as possible.

Ben Goldsmith:
That's also essential but it's not the whole answer. The other part of the answer is economics and that's what this discussion is about and there's some exciting moves here in England on this.

Saif Hameed:
When we talk about the economics, whether it's a question of matching subsidies and incentives from policy makers appropriately against opportunities or the business value. I think one of the most important parts is about effective measurement and Ben Hart you mentioned a number of interesting technologies when it comes to better measurement. Right? Whether it's the drones or the LIDAR or actually just field level data collection. One of the issues that many altruistic customers struggle with which is where we can be helpful is around data ingestion and the ability to work across many disparate data sets. We usually find that the task of actually consolidating and making sense of these data sets is often a big hurdle and a big challenge. That frankly is probably only multiplied actually when you get down to the level of individual initiatives at ground level, whether it's farms or otherwise. To what extent do you think there is the ability at the level of individuals and teams and organizations implementing interventions in biodiversity, in nature restoration.

Saif Hameed:
To actually bring together the technologies that you mentioned and create the right level of baseline so that some of what Ben articulated can be made most effective.

Ben Hart:
I completely agree. It's a bit of a challenge at the moment, it's a little bit wild west. The challenge we have is that we don't necessarily know exactly what the shape of the data that we need. What we are trying to do is measure everything as much as we can, as granular as we can to create that accurate baseline that gives the best case picture. It's never going to be a 100% accurate, but the best case picture of where we are right now and then say over the next few years, as things start to clarify more in terms of what credits are available in terms of income streams. We know that there is a number of carbon credit schemes, there's the Woodland Carbon Code, the Peatland Code, but we know there is a Saltmarsh Carbon Code and Hedgerow Carbon Code and Soil Carbon Code is coming.

Ben Hart:
Then on a biodiversity we are working with a number of organizations, Plan Vivo are developing a concept for a biodiversity credit that we're looking at and hoping to work on that as well and there's lots of interesting stuff going around in that space. But fundamentally there's nothing that's really clearly this is what you should do. The key thing, if you can't measure it you can't manage it, so understanding what you can measure. Then obviously if you are a smaller organization, recognizing that there are certain things that you can measure that are easier to do than others. The biodiversity net gain is an example of a biodiversity compliance scheme, which you might be aware of in the UK. Where developers have to show a positive net gain on their developments and if they don't they have to essentially buy some biodiversity net gain credits from a habitat bank. That's actually based on spreadsheet modeling of habitats and it's using the habitat and the condition of the habitat as a proxy for what's actually there in terms of the condition of the site.

Ben Hart:
So there are different things that can be done that aren't necessarily that expensive and what we're hoping is over time as the kind of requirements to produce data become more clear and actually at the same time organizations like ourselves will be working on how to reduce those costs. There's a lot of academics working in the space in terms of understanding what are the key things to record. An example might be bat species for example. Bats are a good indicator species because they feed on insects and the amount of insects in your site shows you how good the habitat health is. So actually if you could measure bat species and some of the work that's been looked at in terms of is how can we use audio monitoring to record the numbers of bat species on our site and the changes of that over time could be a good indicator species to record.

Saif Hameed:
I'm not sure if either of you have read the Financial Times article written by the CEOs of Nestle and Unilever around removing deforestation from their supply chains. I think that a lot of the conversation that we see from business and enterprise is around doing less bad let's say when it comes to nature and biodiversity. Whereas, a lot of the conversation we're having here is around doing more good effectively. Do you think that there's a world in the near future where actually business starts not just quantifying doing less bad. But actually implementing measures initiatives and data systems to do more good in this space as well, do you think that's possible or do you think it's a bit far out?

Ben Hart:
I'll jump in on there. I think that's definitely possible. At the moment the whole concept of offsetting is literally that, you are offsetting harm. Whether it's your carbon footprint or your nature impacts, it's a zero sum game. So one of the things we are really exploring is how can we work with the partners that want to go past that in terms of nature restoration. Because otherwise if everyone's just offsetting the harm we're all staying in the same place. What I've seen in the market over the last three, four years, which I think has really driven the climate change agenda is the combination of the TCFD. Which is the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures and science based targets. So by implementing or assessing climate risks and having to report them by the TCFD in company reporting. That's really got companies to sit up and pay attention about actually there's a fundamental risk to business models by changing climate and then actually then say, well how do we do this? Let's create a science based aligned target strategy to reduce our impact on climate change and therefore our reliance on this.

Ben Hart:
I think that what's coming behind you, I'm sure you're aware is the TNFD, which is the Task Force for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures and actually science based targets are releasing new science based targets for nature and there's various different organizations looking at similar things. So I think that combination of understanding the risks and then mapping. As we talked about measuring and mapping, the corporate impacts on nature and then setting targets. Because there'll be Science Based Targets, but then there'll be a lot of companies which we've seen in the science based target space has said, well how do I go above and beyond? How do I show that I am reducing my carbon emissions in line with the science, but also offsetting at the same time so I'm having double impact? What we're really hoping to see is that corporates and organizations will start to look at that and say, well actually yeah we can offset our bit of nature harm here. But actually what we want to do is fund nature restoration at scale, which is what we all need to see.

Saif Hameed:
Actually then Goldsmith you are now embarking on this space as well, right? From multiple angles. So would love to hear your perspective as well.
Ben Goldsmith:
So first point I want to make is it's hard to have a conversation around the recovery of nature without talking about the two industries which have done the most to destroy nature just by definition. The first of those is industrial fishing and the other one is farming and in the context of farming, well 80% of the farmland is used to produce meat and 20% is used to produce plant food for humans. So once you start to look at animal agriculture in particular, you are looking at the cause of an enormous amount of habitat loss and nature destruction. Therefore I think that the ongoing food technology revolution is highly relevant and very exciting. The ability to produce milk for example in the same way that we produce thyroxin or insulin or other products using enzymes. I think precision fermentation, concoctions of different plant ingredients to produce burgers or pork meatballs, which is what Impossible Foods are doing. Egg powder from mung beans, which is what Just Foods are doing. There's even a company in Shanghai which is making squid using cell culture that supposedly tastes even better than the real thing.

Ben Goldsmith:
If we can replace great chunks of the animal agriculture industry with new methods of production which are massively lower impact. Then we free up huge tracts of land for nature recovery and that changes the whole equation in terms of rewilding and nature recovery in the context of climate and everything else. So I think that's really exciting and George Monbiot just written that what, we'll no doubt be a best seller called Regenesis. I urge listeners to buy that book and get themselves read up on this great tidal wave of innovation in food production that's coming because it's exciting. I also think what's interesting is this new business model around nature recovery, which seeks to turn rewilding into an asset class. Previously rewilding has always been about philanthropy, we've done our harm and we want to assuage our guilt by restoring a bit of land. Or we are deeply passionate about nature and so we're going to gather together the amount of money we can from generous philanthropists and we're going to restore a bit of nature. But if that process can be converted into an asset class then again you change the paradigm.

Ben Goldsmith:
So I'm involved with a group of people including Ben Hart on your screen that is looking to acquire ecologically and economically bankrupt land. So land which has been knackered from an environmental perspective and which is not particularly useful from an agricultural perspective. Lower grade farmland and we plan on rewilding that land, creating new wild places. Our goal is to generate financial yields from that process, which are comparable to the financial yields you would earn from the conventional equivalent uses. Such as commercial timber production or commercial arable farming or commercial offices in London. In other words, if we can get mid to high single digit financial yields from the process of rewilding that offers us the capability of raising huge sums of money for restoring nature across big chunks of land. So I'm excited about both of those trends and I think they both offer the possibility that businesses will move away from minimizing their destruction towards maximizing their contribution to restoration.

Saif Hameed:
On the subject of asset class. We were speaking just now about the voluntary offset market and one of the large chunks of voluntary offset supply comes from avoidance based offsets created effectively by organizations. Making reductions in their baseline and monetizing that by selling the accounting gains let's say from those reductions to others. Ben and Ben, do you both expect that actually this trajectory will also hold true for nature? Where let's say that I'm a company producing burgers and I'm actually switching to one of the new technologies that Ben Goldsmith mentioned. I can actually monetize that by selling those credits effectively to another company. Is that the direction of travel do you think?

Ben Hart:
Yes, I think it is and I think it would be nice to see that happen more. I think actually Tesla have managed to do this and actually sell carbon credits because of the cars they produce and actually that becomes a certain percentage of their profits. But yeah, so I think that is really important certainly from a nature asset point of view in terms of what Ben was talking about. Obviously we are looking at how do we restore nature, but there is a whole piece around how do you protect existing nature? For example in the VCM market, you have the kind of the protection of tropical forests carbon credits. So it's avoiding destruction of tropical forests. How do we get something similar happening here? You've obviously got key challenges around additionality and how do you make sure it is additional and you are protecting stuff that would otherwise be destroyed. But we have a big challenge with lots of our pristine nature areas, where we are trying to live and develop and we need more houses than the rest of it.

Ben Hart:
So how do we work out how to financially encourage the protection of these spaces and these natural systems, as well as just creating new ones.
Saif Hameed:
In many of my conversations with people involved with regenerative agriculture what we find is that they can to a great extent offset some of the increased costs or let's say lower yield with higher prices contributing to a higher margin. That obviously does not work indefinitely, right? If this gathers scale and actually across the UK, more and more farms are switching to more and more regenerative approaches. At some point, those gains start to diminish because there is no differentiation. When we talk about the policy ecosystem here, having talked a little about the technology and the financing instruments. Do you think that there's a lot of readiness to really rock the boat given how important it is also for farm incentives, which are dependent on by the farming community in the UK to sort of be reliable and consistent? How are you seeing both the policy trajectory and also the reception amongst the farming community?

Ben Goldsmith:
The new public money for public good approach rocks the boat. There's a big and fast growing subset of farmers who are embracing it with open arms. The Nature Friendly Farmers Network for example is now several thousand farmers strong and there's a growing cohort of farmers who recognize that this public money for public good approach is the best way in which they will secure a long term support from taxpayers. Because the old system of area based payments whereby the more land you own the more you get is not politically defensible under any hue of government. From free market conservatives right the way across to hard line socialists, it's a very difficult one to justify. So those farmers who are campaigning against the new public money for public good scheme and who I don't think will win, they risk winning the battle and then losing the war. So I think the demonstration of meaningful economic and societal goods in exchange for this public money is a very important thing for farming. If they're going to maintain the flow of cash each year from taxpayers in support of what they do.

Ben Goldsmith:
So the reception has not necessarily been uncontroversial and the official position of the National Farmer's Union and of certain of their political sponsors is that this should be paused, which is a euphemism for canned. But I think at the moment the secretary of state and his ministers in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, as well as the prime minister and his team number 10. Their position is that this will go ahead no matter what, I think that's a good thing and I think it's a huge win for nature. It's a huge win for farmers and it's a huge win for taxpayers. Another actor in this that is less referenced is the treasury. The treasury knows that the UK government is now legally committed to restore nature. It's a whole set of targets in the 25 year environment plan which have legal underpinning. So the government risks judicial review and prosecution if it does not meet those targets. The treasury knows that it has to pay for the work that's required to deliver those targets and it doesn't want to pay twice.

Ben Goldsmith:
It sees the Environmental Land Management Scheme, which will be paid to landowners as the principle funding mechanism for delivering that nature recovery. If it comes to the view that the Environmental Land Management Scheme is really just money for old rope. Then I wouldn't be surprised if they just can it altogether and develop a new entirely nature focused program. So the treasury is a very important actor in all of this and they will keep the rest of the government honest on nature recovery in my view.

Saif Hameed:
Fantastic. I'm going to move to my last two questions and I have a slightly different one for each of you. Ben Goldsmith to start with actually, if you had to name one big challenge that you see on the road ahead that could be highly disruptive and actually set back the agenda on these topics by 10 years for example. What would you say that is?
Ben Goldsmith:

Soaring cost of living and a retrograde view that the only way we tackle that is through doubling down on earlier more archaic systems. I mean, it's been very unusual to see energy pundits and the energy industry having been exposed for the inherent vulnerability of our energy system and reliance on imports calling for a doubling down on that system. Rather than a transition as quickly as possible towards homegrown energy and efficiency. Similarly in farming, it takes five barrels or five gallons of fossil fuels to produce one barrel or one gallon of chemical fertilizer and our farming system has been shown to be extremely vulnerable to price shocks when it comes to imported fertilizer. So rather than doubling down on that system which is the call from some quarters, we ought to be transitioning as quickly as we can towards more regenerative approaches which rely less on chemical inputs. So I think the greatest threat is this cost of living thing and siren voices which urge us backwards. I think that's the greatest threat right now.

Saif Hameed:
Ben Hart, my question to you is if there could be one silver bullet quite unexpected, quite out of the blue that could radically accelerate change in this direction what would you say it might be?

Ben Hart:
That's an interesting question. I would say a clear comprehensive and well funded program building on as Ben mentioned the replacement for ELMS. There is a lot of complexities you mentioned and a lot of farmers we've met are looking to us and saying, you guys go and work it out first and then we'll find out what happens afterwards. So I think clarity around that, I think most farmers would be very receptive to that if it was simple and clear and actually provided the levels of payments that would make them able to be financially comfortable. That would change everything overnight and hopefully we'll get there with the new policies as they come through. They just need to move a bit faster.

Saif Hameed:
Ben and Ben, thank you so much. We're going to hope for fewer obstacles and more silver bullets. But for now thank you both for making time for speaking with us and thanks to our listeners for tuning into today's episode of This Is Altruistic. Do get in touch with us if you're on a journey to understand your businesses and environmental impact. The notes from this episode are available in the show notes below and you can find more episodes of This Is Altruistic on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Ben Goldsmith:
Thank you Saif.

Ben Hart:
Thank you for having us.

Saif Hameed:
Thank you so much.