The Business of Conservation

Spring 2023

Why Conservation For Profit Is A Sustainable Approach For Our Planet’s Future

Conservation has long been associated with non-profit organisations and government agencies trying to protect our planet’s precious habitats, biodiversity and natural resources. In the face of absolute climate collapse and a worsening biodiversity crisis, the time for action is now and the need for positive environmental and social impact has never been greater. A more strategic, business-like approach allows us to mobilise the investment required to make an impact at scale and pace,  giving future generations the chance of life on earth. Conservation for profit provides a sustainable approach for our planet’s future.

Leveraging Market Forces for Conservation: Our approach recognises the economic value of nature and seeks to harness market forces to drive conservation efforts. While we appreciate it may seem counterintuitive to some, conservation for profit has the potential to provide positive impact for people and the environment, creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders (including the planet). In a capitalist economy and society, profit is a powerful motivator that drives innovation, investment, and resource allocation. By attaching economic value to conservation, we can leverage market forces to incentivise regenerative and sustainable practices. For example, organic regenerative agriculture (at Wood Advent) can generate income from food production, while also protecting biodiversity and ensuring long-term food security (whilst improving soil health). This creates a financial incentive for landowners, farmers and growers to manage their land sustainably, leading to better conservation outcomes.

Creating Economic Opportunities for Local Communities: Moreover, conservation for profit can provide tangible benefits to local communities, particularly in rural areas where much of our most precious habitat and biodiversity ‘hot spots’ are located. For example, ecotourism (at Invergeldie), which promotes responsible tourism in natural areas, can generate revenue for local communities through visitor fees, accommodations, and other services. This not only creates jobs and improves livelihoods, helps visitors connect with and understand nature, but also fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship among local communities, emotionally (and economically) incentivising them to protect their natural heritage.

Promoting Innovation and Technology-Driven Solutions: Conservation for profit can also promote innovation and technology-driven solutions to environmental challenges. With the potential for financial gains, businesses and entrepreneurs are incentivised to develop new technologies and practices that can help conserve natural resources and protect the environment. This includes the increasing use of remote data acquisition, drone technology and machine learning for high definition landscape measurement and monitoring. For example renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind (never hydro power – they destroy river systems). These energy sources are sustainable, do not produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and can contribute to mitigating climate change. Renewable energy projects (like we hope to see at Blackburn & Hartsgarth) can generate income through the production of clean energy, while also promoting environmental conservation. This could be wind over a growing woodland canopy or integrated regenerative farming alongside renewable energy projects, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and minimising environmental pollution.

Addressing the Concerns of Critics: Critics of conservation for profit argue that putting a price tag on nature commodifies it and undermines its intrinsic value. They argue that conservation efforts should only be driven by ethical and moral considerations, rather than profit motives. While it’s important to acknowledge the moral and ethical aspects of conservation, we recognise the reality that without mobilising the incredible investment required to protect and improve the natural world there won’t be a planet left to conserve! By attaching economic value to nature, we can ensure that it is taken into account in economic calculations and decision-making processes, rather than being ignored or undervalued.

Another concern raised by critics is that conservation for profit may exacerbate inequality and lead to the privatisation of natural resources, potentially leading to the displacement of local communities and loss of access to traditional lands. Commercial based conservation must therefore include safeguards to prevent such negative impacts. For example, partnerships between conservation organisations, local communities, and businesses can ensure that benefits are shared, and that local people have the opportunity to be involved in these changing landscapes.

The Importance of Engagement: Our approach when acquiring land is to engage with the local community, to watch, listen, and learn. Soon after acquisition of any new landscape we welcome local people to each of these places. For example we’ve invited local communities and key stakeholders to afternoon tea on Dartmoor, for mulled wine and mince pies at Christmas in Perthshire and to lunch at Hartsgarth Farm in the Scottish Borders. We’ve welcomed the Rivers Trusts, Wildlife Trusts, National Parks, The National Trust, Natural England, Local community groups, Local councils, Students, and former owners and tenants to each of our different land holdings.

Making More Land More Accessible: We are committed to making the landscape we manage more accessible (where the environment makes it appropriate to do so) to those who live, work and play within these truly incredible landscapes. We prioritise investment locally, at every opportunity, when selecting consultants or contractors recognising that money spent locally is more beneficial to the local economy. Where we have built property on an estate we invite local tenancies (with more people living and working on our estates than before our ownership). We also plan on developing unique ecotourism opportunities which can create new employment opportunities and bring additional revenues to local communities.

Exploring Profit Sharing Solutions: We hope that in the future we can develop commercially viable ways of helping the community more directly benefit financially from our work. This might include profit share arrangements where we can develop renewable energy, helping local business access natural capital products and services at a reduced rate, or by it becoming possible to return areas of land to the local community as mature woodlands, nature reserves or other areas for public access.

In Conclusion we believe that conservation for profit is a sustainable approach that recognises the economic value of nature and leverages market forces to drive conservation efforts. By attaching economic incentives to conservation, we can align human nature and market forces to promote sustainable practices, provide tangible benefits for people and the environment, to foster innovation, and ensure that nature is considered in economic decision-making. While we recognise there are concerns that need to be addressed, conservation for profit has the potential to create a sustainable and scalable model for protecting our planet’s natural resources and biodiversity offering future generations the chance of life on earth.


Rich Stockdale
Founder & Managing Director