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The Fish in a Business Suit

Nature as a Partner for Corporates during South Summit 2024 in Madrid.

Illustration by Ingram Pinn.

Tell us about the fish in the business suit! And so began my conversation with John Elkington at South Summit Madrid in June.

The reference goes back to the early 1990s, when John commissioned Ingram Pinn, a Cartoonist with the Financial Times, to depict his directional thinking on the triple-bottom line visually. Over 30 years later, it’s equally fitting as businesses evolve from climate neutrality to nature positivity.

Here are a few key points we discussed during our fireside chat in Madrid.

The Nature-Tech Revolution: Nature-based solutions, like personal computing in the 1970s, are on the cusp of a boom. The opportunity now is for businesses to partner with nature to address critical challenges, moving beyond mere conservation to active collaboration.

Technology's Double-Edged Sword: Technology and innovation understandably drive human excitement, but it’s imperative we balance the gains of emerging technologies (i.e., bioacoustics, e-DNA, remote sensing, satellite imagery) with potential misuse and not allow ourselves to think that technology alone can remedy our broken relationship with the natural world. It's one of many essential tools in the toolbox!  

Regulation and Innovation Balance: Regulations pushing for corporate disclosures on nature impacts are evolving quickly, especially in the EU. This is needed, and many of us in the sustainability profession have advocated for such regulatory clarity. But it’s imperative to balance carrot and stick and, in conjunction, enact enabling policies while remaining open to outcome-based approaches. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

Biomimicry at the Core: Learning from nature, which means biomimicry, is imperative to a nature-positive transition. As such, Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) must expand their command of the natural world and incorporate ‘Head of Nature’ considerations. Again, a true partnership with nature must go beyond imitation and modeling. 

The Need for Biological Expertise in Business: As biology and ecology become increasingly crucial for business operations, we must be aware of the lack of such expertise in most corporate leadership. It’s time to seek out and integrate this knowledge, whether through board appointments, in-house positions, or advisory roles.

Any dialogue with John is a fine combination of originality, engagement, and insight. See his journal reflections here on the South Summit & Biodiversity Session

My main takeaway is that the business world is on the brink of a paradigm shift in its relationship with nature. As we move towards a nature-positive future, businesses that can adapt, innovate, and truly partner with nature are more likely to find themselves at the forefront of their industries and sustainable development more broadly. 

Lara Birkes

My mission is to help individuals and organizations understand our reliance on the natural world, and to adopt behaviors that allow our planet to flourish.

Website Montana



We believe that the digital transformation and related technologies are revolutionizing the very nature of the way we live and who we are.  Done right, these innovations can help lead us to a better world. We're here to bring together the people and the tools to help you build it.

One key focus of our mission is to explore how the innovations of Web3, Ai, and Quantum Computing can help to sustain the natural world and build greater efficiencies to grow our shared prosperity. We believe in creating a collaborative, inclusive, and sustainable community to explore innovative solutions. Solutions that will contribute to achieving bioregional and global prosperity by integrating our three interconnected worlds: the natural world, the human-made physical world, and emerging technologies.

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