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The biodiversity business: Making green count

The biodiversity business: Making green count

Green is everywhere. Sometimes you can see it, sometimes not. In business today, green principles and issues are often at work, but only in the background, invisible to the naked eye. Ironically, in the case of the green that is easy to see, placing a business value on it can actually prove quite hard.

This green is the living kind. It is the stuff of biodiversity: swales, green walls, gabions, native species, wildlife-friendly planting, hedgerows, wildflower meadows, mature trees, saplings, swift and bat boxes, insect houses, wetland habitat and raingardens.

It is not just beautiful, but plentiful. Living green is being woven daily throughout the fabric of our property portfolio at M&S: at our head offices, throughout store-retrofit programmes and on landmark new-build schemes.

Taking our recent Cheshire Oaks development in Ellesmere Port, statistics tell the tale: 12,000sq m of landscaping and wetland, 350sq m of living wall, 228 trees planted, 88 plant species,17 types of bird sighted, plus the first ever award of the Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Benchmark to a UK retailer. It is our biggest greenest store.

Biodiversity 1

There can be no doubting the positives to greening. Biodiversity is essential to maintaining our quality of life and a healthy environment. We believe that our buildings can be important hosts for biodiversity in order to prevent its’ decline. A holistic approach to design and integration of living green elements also supports our resource-efficient store concepts. Local community schools are enjoying amenity and education outdoors, walking and talking birds, bees and bats with us. Green initiatives are even a great conversation starter for raising public awareness in general and boosting stakeholder engagement. All of these features, effects and more are contributing to the buzz around biodiversity, but it is not enough. We are frustrated. 

For M&S, the biodiversity story has started strongly and reads well, but it is far from finished.

Biodiversity 2Collectively, landscape and ecology professionals, both those connected to M&S and throughout the industry at large, are constructing an argument in support of biodiversity, but, by their own admission, doing so without the key metrics to capture the true benefits. Our story needs an ending. 

We want to be able to prove that a healthy and nature-connected working and shopping environment can pay huge dividends in terms of wellbeing, productivity and business effectiveness. We want to be able to demonstrate that greening improves building performance through insulation, shading and reduced stormwater runoff. We want to show the real return there is to be made on a relatively small investment in design. However, without the killer data, our business case is incomplete. 

Much as the moment might seem right for ecosystem services to go mainstream, there will be no tipping point without active collaboration on the number crunching. Potential will remain just that, unless the industry can capture the benefits to deliver quantifiable results.

Being measurable will make biodiversity manageable in a way that will move it onto any Board Room agenda and keep it there. It is time to make green count.

If you're interested in finding out more about our biodiversity work, like how we delivered a net increase in biodiversity at our Cheshire Oaks store, you can read our blog all about it here.

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