Innovating for nature: the KPMG Nature Positive Challenge

Humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services continues to expand, every year, “overshooting” the resources regenerated by our planet. In Australia in 2022 we reached our annual Overshoot on March 23, meaning that from every day after we are living on resources borrowed from future generations.

A growing demand for food, water, and natural resources has seen critical ecosystems globally destroyed at an alarming rate. More than half of the world’s forests have disappeared, three quarters of coral reef are under threat and a million species are at risk of extinction. Human activity is at the centre of nature’s decline – changing habitat use for industries, exploiting ecosystems for consumption, pollution of climate, air, soil, and water and now a rapidly changing climate.

In response to the rapid decline in our biosphere, ‘nature positive’ has etched its way to the forefront of recent climate discussions. However, it is not a new concept entirely. For Indigenous peoples around the world, nature’s resilience has been rooted in custodial knowledge of land and water resources, as well as practices that preserved and regenerated our landscapes for generations.

Many years ago, I was lucky to visit a natural wonder hidden deep in the jungles of Meghalaya, north-eastern India. Crowned as the ‘rain capital of the world’, the highlands of Cherrapunjee are bombarded with monsoon weather events which regularly flood the valleys and rivers below. Under most circumstances, these powerful torrents of water would be an obstacle to people living and moving freely across the remote landscape. Yet for Indigenous Khasi peoples, it was an opportunity to engineer a solution through a reciprocal bond with nature and the most abundant resource they could find. Trees.

Cherrapunji Vine Bridges

Living vine bridges are an awe-inspiring feat in regenerative architecture – aerial tree roots woven across rivers to bear the weight of people; whilst also absorbing carbon, protecting soil from erosion, and promoting richer biodiversity to flourish. These structures are representative of the type of innovation made possible with a richer understanding of the connectivity and complexity in nature.

To imagine a net zero world, we must first consider the intrinsic link and value in nature – the health, abundance, diversity, integrity, and resilience of all living ecosystems. We must combine net zero strategies and emission reduction efforts with solutions that allow nature to flourish.

By 2030 we must have more nature than we do now, to make way for a full recovery by 2050. Nature, and the biodiversity that underpins it, is the very foundation of our economies, livelihoods and wellbeing and should be treated as such.

This is why I am incredibly proud to see this firm launch our inaugural KPMG Nature Positive Challenge, to help accelerate the most innovative solutions for a nature positive world. Through consultation with experts at KPMG and industry, we designed this Challenge as a pathway to mobilise the firm’s skills, capabilities and convening power to address the most urgent issue facing our planet.

Historically, our climate commitments have focused on minimising our environmental impact in line with a net zero target to 2030. From the last few years of bushfires, flooding events, mass coral bleaching and rapid biodiversity loss, it is evident that these efforts are no longer enough. This initiative incentivises business to accelerate solutions that protect our landscapes, halt biodiversity loss, and improve resilience to a changing climate.

By bringing together impact ventures, pioneers and relevant industry networks, nature and biodiversity will be at the heart of system design. This challenge is inspired by the practices of Indigenous custodians for generations to catalyse innovation that enriches our natural world. These projects must consider the needs of the precious country we occupy with a model of regeneration, resilience, and resource circularity to deeply care for it.

Whether planting trees with drones, monitoring our diverse wildlife using smart data, or producing a bioproduct to keep plastics from our oceans, we want to help scale the ideas of Australia’s nature positive pioneers.

The KPMG Nature Positive Challenge – at a glance

  • Four high-potential impact ventures will be selected to share a pool of bespoke services in their area of need, valued at $200,000.
  • The venture with the most potential to scale its business, and the most potential to drive positive impact for nature, will receive the KPMG Nature Positive Prize – a no-strings-attached cash injection of $100,000.
  • At the conclusion of the program, we will bring our selected ventures together, to connect them to a beneficial network of industry, business, science, knowledge and community partners, and impact investors.

Expressions of interest for the initiative are open until midnight, 29 April. Eligibility criteria, key dates and how to apply can be found here.

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