Rewilding Europe has made business and investment into one of its three main pillars. We know that there is a vital business case for biodiversity, wildlife, wilderness and nature conservation. Something that is often yet to be proven in most of the rewilding locations, simply because it is a new way of doing things, making money and creating job opportunities, than the traditional ways.
Economic development is an increasing threat to nature everywhere today and at the same time a major opportunity for nature conservation. We want to explore the parts of it that brings opportunity to rewilding.
Today, everyone knows that the old agricultural economy in rural Europe, challenged by the competition from globalisation, changes in lifestyle and ambitions in life and propped up by inefficient or perverse EU subsidies, is heading towards a period of rapid change. Subsidies will be replaced and restructured. Areas in Europe with less productive soils and longer distances to the cities are being abandoned at an alarming rate, c. 1 million hectares per year. What is Europe going to do with its most remote countryside?
A bold new economy
Rewilding Europe seeks to help develop a bold new economy based on using wildlife, wilderness and wild lands in new, creative ways, other than just ploughing the fields, cutting the trees and shooting the wild animals.
Rewilding Europe wants to explore the rapidly evolving new markets – nature based tourism is growing at three times the rate of conventional tourism. Through mass communication initiatives such as Wild Wonders of Europe, the people of Europe’s urban areas are waking up to the wonderful wildlife experiences available on their doorsteps, and they increasingly want to see these themselves.
The whole new economy being developed around ‘Carbon storage‘ and payments for ‘Ecosystem services‘ represent huge potential incomes to rural areas and wild lands. Slowly price lists are being established for the fact that wild and natural areas protect our drinking water, store carbon, provide buffers against floods and slow down or soften the effects of climate change. Services that are increasingly made into jobs and income. Soon maybe even wildlife will have a market price – not only as meat, but the live animals, on location.
The last decade has also seen the rapid growth of a new ‘Impact (or ‘Social’ or ‘Responsible’) investment‘ marketplace. A 2010 report by JP Morgan and the Rockefeller Foundation estimates that the ‘Impact Investment industry‘ represents an investment opportunity of between US$ 400 billion and US$ 1 trillion, already encouraged in many countries by new tax driven regulation.
Creating a ‘Rewilding Europe investment fund‘
Rewilding needs to mean new jobs, income and business for the people who live where the rewilding is happening. Helping to establish strong and innovative nature-based businesses all across our rewilding areas, is therefore core to what Rewilding Europe is doing.
We recognize that many wildlife and wilderness entrepreneurs in the rewilding areas will need investment and finance to grow and sustain their businesses. Rewilding Europe is therefore in discussions with forward-thinking, major financial institutions to create an investment fund for the rewilding of Europe which will invest in conservation-based businesses across Europe’s rewilding areas.
The business dimension of rewilding is definitely new territory for nature conservation ambitions in our continent, but not so in other parts of the world. Here Europe can actually learn from Southern Africa, who has decades of experience from precisely that.
In these new and creative linkages between wilderness, wildlife, wild lands and business there is a lot of new hope for those who want to live and work in Europe’s natural regions.
This is part of a new and exciting future for Europe.