Green Infrastructure to Green Finance: A Potential Evolutionary Path of Landscape Architecture
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” — William Shakespeare.
As landscape architects, we are polymaths or jack of all trades and system-based thinkers in a field that involves the design, planning, and management of the outside environment. We can be part of a collaborative process and are pivotal in green infrastructure, nature-based solutions, biodiversity net gain, and sustainable water management.
These concepts are ingrained in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets and are crucial for evidence collection, moving us beyond ‘#Carbontunnelsyndrome. This makes landscape architects valuable assets within the ESG and sustainability realms. We contribute to a climate-resilient future derisk and influence the insurance world by mitigating the impacts of extreme events through adaptive landscape strategies. For example, the Grey to Green Project in Sheffield prevents flooding and improves the economy, health, and biodiversity.
For years, within my ‘built environment’ bubble, I assumed solutions to climate change, health improvement, and the biodiversity crisis would originate from planning and UK government legislation. Yet, most are based on new development - the vast majority of change needed in rural and urban contexts is to retrofit; buildings and landscapes working together as a healthy ecosystem for people and nature.
However, there’s been a seismic shift in the business world, especially in finance and insurance, signalling far-reaching changes already in motion. For example, investors, banks, pension providers and EU-funded (legacy) projects are already asking for information such as peer-review evidence (e.g., Building with Nature) and data on ‘Is this working?
Some areas of the UK are now ‘uninsurable’ due to climate change's impact; what if long-term funded adaptive landscapes were implemented to mitigate the impact and reduce premiums and utility bills? Would this derisk property, life, etc? Where would the funds come from?
Over the past three years, I’ve immersed myself in workshops, conferences, and talks on sustainability reporting, greening finances, ESG, and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), among other topics. Why? There’s an ever-strengthening link between landscape architecture and these sectors. Also, we need to contribute by bringing our expertise to the table, being part of the solution for strategies and targets, and finding longer-term finance models and objectives.
Let’s look at some key developments:
In 2015 saw the creation of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD)
The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review, published in 2021 (), catalysed the formation of the TNFD.
COP26 Glasgow in 2021 led to the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), aimed at developing sustainability disclosure standards for evidence and science-based non-financial reporting.
The EU’s Taxonomy, adopted in July 2020, requires businesses to demonstrate contributions to sustainability without adversely impacting other aspects, in line with UNSDGs.
October 2022 marked the adoption of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) by the EU, affecting many UK-based companies.
The UK is also examining the enactment of similar measures in Non-Finacnial reporting.
In October 2023, the UK's Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) published its finalised Disclosure Framework and supporting guidance, which is intended to help private sector companies develop, disclose, and deliver “gold-standard” climate transition plans.
Green infrastructure is essential for ESG evidence collection, supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG).
We are valuable assets within the ESG and sustainability realms. We contribute to climate resilience and influence the insurance landscape by mitigating the impacts of extreme events through adaptive landscape strategies.
Here’s how to become more informed and involved:
🗣️ Learn the business world’s language and motivations.
🌐 Shift away from carbon tunnel syndrome.
🔀 Apply your landscape architecture knowledge and expertise laterally.
🎯 Familiarise and tailor your data to focus on types of science-based targets and evidence requirements.
🌟 Stay aware of UNSDGs – seek co-benefits related to EU Taxonomy and incorporate them into your work.
🧩 Explore case studies across industries related to ecology and landscape, from design to maintenance—for instance, Glenmorangie, who now focuses on nature regeneration beyond just carbon considerations.
We are working on various projects nationally in the UK, embedding science-based targets, and evidence in green infrastructure standards related to UNSDs, ESG and ISSB, such as for the University of Bristol and Redcliffe and Temple BID Green Infrastructure Action Plan. Also, Building with Nature accreditation to peer review projects and policies