Elevating the Environment Sector

Spring 2024

The environment sector has a unique opportunity. It sits at the coincidence of two of the most significant challenges of our time: climate collapse and biodiversity crisis. Despite the importance of this opportunity, the sector continues to grapple with a self-imposed insignificance, a lack of identity and absence of ambition.

If polled on the perception of the environment sector, the majority of people would almost certainly consider it the haven of retirees and volunteers rather than a dynamic field ripe for investment, advancement, and professionalism.

The environment sector, and all of us that work within it must decide – do we have the ambition to really create a natural capital economy or instead, waste the greatest, and perhaps the last opportunity we have to make a real meaningful difference in the face of climate collapse and biodiversity crisis?

We’ve made our choice…have you?

To pivot from this outdated view and harness the full potential of what should be one of the most exciting sectors (alongside AI) we must embark on a comprehensive professionalisation campaign. This will not only rebrand the sector but will also integrate cutting-edge technology, brand development and psychology, transformative educational approaches, and (sadly yes) robust policy support all to ensure it’s the regenerative growth of the environment sector, and by extension, the creation of the natural capital or nature-based economy!



The environmental sector urgently needs to shed its old image and adopt a brand that resonates with young people, creating aspiration and inspiration. Moving away from simplistic representations, such as children’s drawings of trees or terrible quality, tiny images in academic reports, the sector must craft a new narrative positioning it as a core component of innovation and regenerative growth, akin to industries like technology and finance. This rebrand will attract a more exciting, more diverse pool of talented individuals who are looking for careers that offer both challenge and impact.

The wonderful thought leader and marketing psychologist Rory Sutherlands talks about how marketing and branding is the most sustainable performance enhancement tool because successfully changing that perception takes no more resources, no more energy and if done well, creates little to no waste.


Careers, Not Volunteers

Transitioning from a reliance on volunteers to creating structured, well-compensated, and aspirational career paths is essential. Professional roles such as tree planters, fencers, deer management professionals, through to conservation scientists need to be recognised as respected careers and not simply something that can be done well by the hobbyist or the part-time volunteer.  By establishing clear career paths and progression ladders, the sector can motivate professionals and ensure it attracts and retains top talent.

Landowners, business leaders, and all of us have the ability to help solve this problem by demanding a higher standard of products and services relating to nature and natural capital and since that’s everything, it should be easy to do.


Rewarding the Rewarding

Our failure to genuinely value nature and the natural world extends to the recognition of the professionals who are working across the sector. To attract and maintain a skilled workforce, the environmental sector must offer competitive compensation. Increased pay and benefits will not only elevate the sector’s prestige, but also underline the value and significance of this work in maintaining and restoring ecosystems. Alongside the incredible imperative to act, the absence of meaningful recognition across most of the environment sector means it represents incredible value for money to invest now and in a meaningful way.


Valuing Nature

Many in the environment sector cling to the apparent moral superiority of arguing that the environment is priceless and that it’s completely inappropriate to place a monetary value on nature. This has clearly been hugely successful as our atmosphere is comfortable, our climate is stable and calm, our rivers are clear, and our beaches are unblemished.

The absence of pricing carbon is the cause of climate change, the absence of economic penalties on water companies has resulted in our rivers being full of raw sewage, and the fact that producers do not have to pay is the reason why we find plastic bottles, disposable cups, and everything else that we can “throw away” littering our rivers, seas, and oceans and increasingly our food chain.

We simply must continue to make it more economically valuable to protect and improve the planet rather than plunder and pillage.


Education Tailored for Impact

Educational programs must evolve to better prepare individuals for the complexities of modern environmental challenges. This means focusing curricula on regenerative land use, environmental psychology, and the integration of technology in conservation efforts. Such an approach will equip future professionals with the tools to innovate and drive meaningful change.


Leveraging Technology and Data

The integration of advanced data analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning into regenerative environmental management practices can revolutionise how we monitor, verify, and manage natural resources. By adopting these technologies, the sector can enhance its efficiency, precision, and ability to adapt to new challenges.


Leadership and Investment

Leadership is required not only from within environmental organisations but also from investors and financial backers. The development of investable products and services that support sustainable practices will be crucial. This approach will draw in new funding and support from those looking to invest in the future of our planet.

One of the very reasons we founded Oxygen Conservation was to be one of those leaders, to demonstrate that if you focus on delivering positive environmental and social impact you can generate a profit as a result of this, not the purpose.

We are incredibly proud of the steps we’ve taken to redefine conservation, to make it possible to build a £100m conservation-focused natural capital portfolio here in the UK and to begin answering many of the questions and challenges that have held the sector back for so long.

We can’t expect the investment to come from the asset owners, managers, institutions, and funds unless the sector commits to increased professionalisation and that is going to take even more leadership.


Policy Support for Natural Capital

My rule on government is to largely assume they’re not going to do anything and if they do, that it won’t help. I’ve also spent large chapters of my career concluding that government policy doesn’t matter. But, the more time I’ve spent working closely with the financial sector, the more I’m learning that it’s often the only thing that matters. Whereas you and I might find the glacial pace of change sitting on top of the mountains of bureaucracy incredibly frustrating, the financial sector and the markets, and by extension all of us, actually find it reassuring.

Government policy, taxation, and incentives will in many ways play a crucial role in shaping the success of the environment sector. Biodiversity Net Gain requirements are already seeing an impact on the ground routing additional investment into nature recovery and making the cost of development meaningful – this can only be a positive and a step towards a more nature-based economy.

Can we have a meaningful price on carbon next please?


Oxygen Conservation

We’re trying to be the change we want to see in the world and are investing in each of the areas outlined above. We have worked incredibly hard to create an inspirational and aspirational brand and so many of you have kindly told us that you love what we do and how we work.

We have attracted almost 3,000 applicants for 20 roles across the company and have developed an industry-leading paid internship programme that has helped us find some of the most incredible next generation of talented environmentalists. We have never asked people to work for free and don’t intend to, as a sector we should work hard to mean we never need to. We also prioritise working with incredible professional partners including Treestory and Delta Forest alongside multiple independent local contractors. We do still welcome a small number of volunteers, and are incredible grateful for their help but limited this to those linked to existing products, or friends and family of the business.

Later in 2024, we will launch the world’s first premium carbon credits, genuinely putting a meaningful price on carbon. Alongside this, we will be offering conservation-focused BNG credits that help us Scale Conservation and continue to invest in growing the nature-based economy.

We believe in radical transparency and share as much as we can through digital and print media including newsletters, thought leadership pieces, and our Shoot Room Sessions podcast. We speak at conferences and events (even though I’m conflicted doing it!) and welcome hundreds of people to our estates every year.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve met with numerous politicians, Councillors, MPs, and Members of the House of Lords to help share our experiences and learnings. We’ve welcomed many to the Shoot Room to record their podcasts and in the process, share a little about our work and about what the future of the Natural Capital Economy could look like.

We’ve made the choice to professionalise the environment sector…have you?


Rich Stockdale

Founder & Managing Director