As corporations look to express their commitment to the Earth and its earthlings, nature-based solutions (NBS) have taken on new urgency in the boardroom and sometimes not for the right reasons. First things first: NBS are defined by Forrester as natural and nature-based solutions to the consequences and causes of climate change that reduce an organization’s environmental impacts, sequester greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience to climate change-fueled weather hazards, and help businesses and society adapt to chronic climate risks. This includes things like land conservation, wetland restoration and protection, and stormwater parks in urban communities but also green roofs, rainwater harvesting, and green streets to improve storm runoff and improve water quality.

Don’t Be Dumb About Your NBS Choice

Let’s say you’re a beverage company that uses copious amounts of water in your products. You may have an NBS plan to protect watersheds to offset the company’s water consumption. Let’s say that you’re taking that water from a reservoir in Northern California, where they have had drought conditions for years. Meanwhile, you address your water usage by building a stormwater park at your corporate headquarters in Boston. Why? Clearly, you’re taking your water from a state with drought conditions just to protect the watershed in a city where it rains. What kind of sense does that make, and how will you explain it to customers, shareholders, employees, and Californians?

Let’s say you’re a paper company, and you want to offset the trees you cut down by replacing them. Reforestation is a great solution. Right now, you can work with a company to offset your tree usage by replanting trees by drone — drones that fire seeds into the ground from the air and reforest thousands of acres of trees at a time. Leveraging those solutions is a great way to reduce your carbon impact, but not by planting palm trees in Michigan or grasslands in the desert.

NBS must align to the business and meet the needs of the communities that are affected by that loss of resource. No one wants to do the right thing just to be told they are greenwashing and murdering the Earth. Choosing the right nature-based solution isn’t hard, but it does take some thought. Leverage our new NBS tool to help you choose the right NBS for your business strategy.

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This blog post is part of Forrester’s Earth Day 2022 series. For more Forrester insights on sustainability, see the full set of Forrester’s climate action blogs.