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  • Claire Hector, Arc Biodiversity & Climate, Isle of Wight

Why Doing One Thing for Biodiversity Adds Up!

There’s never been a more important time for things like the Big Biodiversity Challenge! Run by CIRIA, these excellent annual awards challenge you to ‘Do One Thing for Biodiversity’. It’s a friendly, gentle call to a huge and all-powerful industry that (no offence) has been slow to respond to the whopping, urgent need to reverse nature loss. If you weren’t up to speed not only on the intrinsic value of nature in itself but to human health and wellbeing, to our sustainability as a species, and on the part of that our industry plays in all that, then a global pandemic sparked by stressed urban environments encroaching on stressed natural ones will have put you straight!

We are, as my colleague Ian Boyd writes in Cities & Health, continually designing and constructing places that forget even human ecology - and it’s making people ill. If you still need persuading that things need to change, just on a personal level, who didn’t clock and feel the rush and healing in fresh air, multi-coloured greenspace and gardens, wild-ways and wildlife that has helped everyone through lockdowns? Whoever makes sure these places exist versus blanket blandness are my national health service heroes and definitely deserve a Big Biodiversity Award!

Arc is a polymathic environmental consultancy based on the Isle of Wight and are part of the team who helped secure the Island’s designation as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We’re proud to have received Big Biodiversity Awards for us or for our partners and clients over the years: a heritage tree project in a town centre development; a community nature play-space; innovations in artificial habitat for marine, riparian enhancements for migratory species. We are a cross-discipline team and work across a wide spectrum and with all communities, so in that time we’ve brought with us volume housebuilders, housing associations, port and ferry companies, Highways and the Environment Agency, NGOs, Real Estate Investment, Business Parks. Arc isn’t in it to win it though - getting the best out of things for biodiversity (and that includes people!) is our job and what motivates all of us here – not one thing once for biodiversity but always and as many things as we can draw from a project. We know you can make huge impact by doing one thing for biodiversity if it covers wildlife’s wants and needs. Do THREE things… and you’ll be on your way to changing the world. Then there’s Arc’s ‘Do A Nine Thing’ proven and flipping brilliant framework Shaping Better Places if you really want to nail it!

I’m not one of Arc’s ecologists, but work on the public engagement and community side of things, making connections between people and nature. For me, the reason why I always support the Challenge is that I believe it’s building a community… and that it stands for and celebrates again not one but three things, across the industry in all its forms – raising aspirations, promoting practical action and sharing learning. The Challenge entries have evolved over the years just as its community has grown, leading to higher and growing aspiration, bigger, better practical action and so on.

For our clients and partners, these awards have sometimes been the first step to discovering why and how they should and can play in doing things differently. For example, the apple tree-grafting project was one small part in a suite of developments we’d worked on, leading to the housebuilder’s recognition of ‘building with nature’ as a winner (although I’d mark them ‘could do better’ to be honest!); the popularity of the nature play-space for a housing association is again part of a wider collaboration helping them recognise the value of their leftover plots for the communities they serve, and with mentoring from us, they’ve just instigated their own Environment Working Group across the South Coast; meanwhile, the Vertipools are greening the grey from Wales to Gibraltar. For our clients at La Salle, receiving recognition for going the extra green mile at Bourne Business Park in 2019 following our early call to action was hugely influential. We continue to work together with their excellent sustainability and development team and now ‘Rewilding’ (biodiversity) and ‘Social Value’ (community) are two of their new four-pillared ESG strategy. Their development director and asset managers have said, ‘we’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do’, their investors are calling for this change, and we are all working across a range of new and existing assets to make sure that all translates into bio-abundance as well as local distinctiveness. Again it’s definitely about upping numbers - more wildlife = healthier and more interesting places + healthier and more interesting people benefiting from interesting, healthier and more abundant wildlife!

All the drivers are there for you to get on board for biodiversity - and do more than one thing… requirements for biodiversity net gain, an Environment Plan that may one day make it over the line, the explosion in ESG and global businesses and finance industry mobilising ‘For Nature’. Please don’t wait to be told or pushed, don’t just box-tick and do the minimum, don’t think it’s not important because it’s all-important… but also don’t think that it’s too difficult or expensive because it’s not – it’s common sense and should be second nature. It’s just that ‘by thinking ecologically, we can deliver better, healthier places for people’. So, find the experts. Do one thing and repeat it, make our three decisions, ask about our nine things - and then lastly, make sure to celebrate, by entering the Challenge and bringing your skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to an ever-growing community of people and wildlife!

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