Library Element Report

The vital role of nature-based solutions in a nature positive economy

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 11 May 2022
Last modified on 11 May 2022

European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, The vital role of nature-based solutions in a nature positive economy, 2022,


Leading authors:

  • Siobhan MCQUAID and Esmee KOOIJMAN, Centre for Social Innovation, Trinity College Dublin
  • Daniela RIZZI, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
  • Thomas ANDERSSON, International Organisation for Knowledge Economy and Enterprise Development (IKED)
  • Joanne SCHANTÉ, LGI Sustainable Innovation

Business as usual is destroying and degrading ecosystems which are the basis for our societies and economies. But alternatives require a fundamental shift away from current practices, which do not adequately account for the impact of business on nature, to new approaches where the value of nature and its contribution to society and the economy are recognised and form the basis of future economic development strategies. A paradigm shift is needed towards a nature-positive, carbon neutral and equitable economy.

The objective of this report is to highlight the vital role of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in this shift towards a nature-positive economy and to raise awareness of the increasingly important role of Nature-Based Enterprises (NBE) in delivering NBS. The UNEA Resolution on Nature-Based Solutions for supporting sustainable development defines NBS as actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, which address social, economic and environmental challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being, ecosystem services and resilience and biodiversity benefits. The resolution further states that nature-based solutions respect social and environmental safeguards.

Nature-Based Enterprises (NBEs) are private or third sector organisations that place nature at the core of their business. Driven by environmental and societal goals, the success of such enterprises is of high importance to realise the potential of NBS and contribute to addressing the twin climate change and biodiversity crises we face. Urgent action is needed to support the start-up and scaling of NBEs to increase their environmental and societal impact, in parallel with a significant increase in investment in NBS.

A nature-based economic approach is complementary to concepts such as the Circular Economy and the Bioeconomy which propose viable pathways towards sustainable development. However, while the economic relevance of the circular economy and food and bio-based industries have been extensively debated and researched, much less work has gone into examining the potential economic benefits of Nature-Based Solutions or the challenges facing Nature-Based Enterprises in delivering such solutions.

This report is a first step in addressing some of these knowledge gaps. Based on extensive consultations with 170 diverse stakeholders over a 6-month period from June to November 2021, we profile some of the economic activities where nature-based enterprises are engaged in the delivery of NBS - generating new jobs, innovations, skills, and wider economic impacts, achieved through a nature-based approach respecting the needs of the environment and communities. We examine some of the key issues confronting stakeholders in the development of a nature-based approach, including ‘greenwashing’ and abuse of the NBS concept by vested interests. Such challenges are addressed head-on, informing guidelines and recommendations on how to realise the transition to a naturepositive economy with NBS and NBE at the core.

This report is aimed specifically at economic policy makers but is of high relevance for policy makers across multiple domains, public sector institutions and agencies, researchers, civil society and NGO representatives, investors and financial institutions, industry and NBE delivering NBS.

This publication is not intended to be read from start to finish. It is designed as a reference guide to accompany policy makers and practitioners at different stages of their NBS journey towards a nature-positive economy





  • 1.1 Context and objectives
  • 1.2 Key concepts
  • 1.3 Methodology
  • 1.4 Structure


  • 2.1 Market Trends
    • 2.1.1 Demand for NBS 
    • 2.1.2 Investment in NBS 
    • 2.1.3 Supply of NBS 
    • 2.1.4 Key actors in NBS value chains 
  • 2.2 Specific market sectors
    • 2.2.1 Ecosystem creation, restoration and management: Marine ecosystem restoration 
    • 2.2.2 NBS for green buildings 
    • 2.2.3 NBS for public and urban spaces 
    • 2.2.4 NBS for water management and treatment 
    • 2.2.5 Sustainable forestry and biomaterials 
    • 2.2.6 Sustainable agriculture & food production 
    • 2.2.7 Sustainable Tourism 
    • 2.2.8 NBS for Health & Wellbeing 
    • 2.2.9 Community Engagement for NBS 
    • 2.2.10 Smart technology, monitoring and assessment of NBS
  • 2.3 Recommendations to address sector specific challenges and enablers


  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Case studies 
  • 3.3 Outstanding system issues.
  • 3.4 Conclusions and recommendations 


  • 4.1 Natural Environment 
  • 4.2 Economic Context
  • 4.3 Cultural Context 


  • 5.1 Standards
  • 5.2 Measurement and Valuation
  • 5.3 Public Policy
    • 5.3.1 Multi-level, cross-sectoral policy development
    • 5.3.2 Investment / financing frameworks and instruments 
    • 5.3.3 NBS in economic development policy 
    • 5.3.4 Potential in developing economies 
  • 5.4 Awareness and Capacity Building
    • 5.4.1 Awareness 
    • 5.4.2 Capacity building 
  • 5.5 Economic opportunities and challenges 
  • 5.6 Key issues and recommendations: summary tables



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