Gresham House launches biodiversity fund with WTW backing

Supporting the UK Environment Act 2021’s biodiversity net gain requirements

Panoramic landscape: beautiful rays of sunlight shining through green foliage in a forest clearing


Michael Nelson

Gresham House has launched a sector specialist biodiversity strategy to accelerate the deployment of nature-based solutions designed to halt biodiversity decline in the UK.

Willis Towers Watson (WTW) is the cornerstone investor in the Gresham House Biodiversity Co-Invest LP (GHBC) strategy, which is aiming to raise $380m to invest in ‘habitat banks’.

Developed by Environment Bank Limited (EBL) – a portfolio business within Gresham House’s British Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (BSIF) strategy – habitat banks turn landscape-scale areas of non-arable farmland into mosaics of woodlands, wetlands and species rich grasslands in accordance with the UK government’s biodiversity net gain (BNG) metrics. BNG units are then generated from these assets and sold to developers requiring planning permission.

According to Gresham House and WTW, their backing enables EBL to offer developers across England a fully funded, one-stop solution to the challenges posed by the BNG requirements, providing legal and financial certainty. The strategy is designed to allow EBL to continue to scale habitat banks to meet rapidly growing demand.

Peter Bachmann, managing director of sustainable infrastructure at Gresham House, said: “With nature consistently emerging as a key theme in the global narrative around climate, it shows consensus is rapidly growing among political and business leaders that we cannot combat the climate crisis without addressing biodiversity loss.

“We are extremely proud of having co-created a nature-based solution with EBL tailored to the needs of the UK government and industry alike. With the UK in the bottom 10% globally in terms of biodiversity, we can see no better place to partner with forward-thinking investors such as WTW to tackle this grave threat.”

With the UK Government’s Environment Act 2021 biodiversity net gain requirements coming into force, developers are required to achieve a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% for their sites to gain planning permission. These rules have enabled a new market worth hundreds of millions of pounds annually, paving the way for other countries to do the same.

As part of its BSIF strategy, Gresham House and its investors have committed over $300m to EBL to date. Over 3,500 hectares of land either in development or under offer, and a team of ecologists and land management specialists are tasked with ensuring they deliver the right landscapes in the right areas to maximise biodiversity.

When delivered on a global scale, nature-based solutions such as habitat banks are expected to deliver a CO2 saving of 10 gigatonnes – equivalent to the emissions of the US, UK and Japan combined.

Professor David Hill CBE, chairman and founder of EBL, added: “The rapid mobilisation of capital from world-leading institutions like WTW and Gresham House into the nascent biodiversity market speaks volumes about the quality of the ecology and proposition we’ve delivered. It’s been a pleasure working with Gresham House to bring this truly game-changing solution to market, and to see the growing recognition globally around the critical need to fund nature restoration at scale.”

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