Demand for nature-based solutions has increased exponentially in recent years as the concept has become widely accepted and encouraged by organisations from the EC to the UN. Nature-based solutions are complex, however, and most organisations do not have the capabilities in-house to design, deliver and manage them. Recent reports(UnaLab, 2020) have shown that finding skilled and experienced suppliers is a major roadblock in the wider uptake of nature-based solutions.

Nature-based enterprises can help to meet this challenge. They support cities, private sector and third sector organisations in the planning, delivery and management or stewardship of nature-based solutions in urban, peri-urban and rural contexts.

What is a nature-based enterprise?

Nature-base enterprises (NBEs) use nature as a core element of their product/service offering.
Nature may be used directly by growing, harnessing, harvesting or restoring natural resources in a sustainable way and/or indirectly by contributing to the planning, delivery or stewardship of sustainable nature-based solutions.

Drawing from the EC definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise1, nature-based enterprises are independent entities which are engaged in an economic activity i.e. ‘the sale of products or services at a given price, on a given/direct market’.

Nature-based organisations are similar to nature-based enterprises in that they use nature directly or indirectly as a core element of their product service offering. They differ from nature-based enterprises in that they may not operate independently or have a trading income as is the case with nationally owned and operated parks or nature reserves for example



Mini GuideboobThis guidebook helps to clarify what is a nature-based enterprise, how to find skilled and experienced nature-based enterprises and how to stimulate and support the start-up, financing and growth of nature-based enterprises.

Download the nature based enterprises guidebook 

Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform

The Connecting Nature Enterprise platform is an online marketplace connecting potential buyers with suppliers of nature-based solutions who can help to design, deliver, manage and monitor NBS. This platform is a stand-alone innovation developed in the Connecting Nature project. It is a sustainable platform which will continue after the Connecting Nature project ends in May 2022.


nature-based enterprise survey & research findings


The first results from the Connecting Nature research survey of nature-based enterprises are now available to download here.  We have had over 170 responses to date from nature-based enterprises which we define as follows:

Nature-based enterprises (NBEs) use nature as a core element of their product/service offering.  Nature may be used directly by growing, harnessing, harvesting or restoring natural resources in a sustainable way and/or indirectly by contributing to the planning, delivery or stewardship of sustainable nature-based solutions.

In response to the barriers and enablers identified we will be launching a Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform in October 2020 to connect buyers and suppliers of nature-based solutions.  To register your interest in updates click here.

The survey remains open and we invite responses from nature-based enterprises around the world.

Available to download here


The Connecting Nature survey remains open – the more data we collect the better our understanding of nature-based enterprises. The overall objective of this survey is to better understand what type of business can nature support? And how can business support nature and society? COVID 19 has had a major impact on organisations worldwide and our hope is is that when the crisis has passed, more opportunities will emerge to work with nature in creating new skills, jobs and sustainable local economies. 


Why should a Nature-Based Enterprise complete this survey?

1. To increase knowledge and support for NBEs

  • the different types of  nature-based enterprises that exist;
  • the variety of products and services they deliver;
  • the value they create for the environment, economy and society;
  • the challenges and opportunities NBEs face including COVID 19 and how policy makers can better support them.


2. To create opportunities for NBEs

The Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform  will:

  • increase the visibility of individual NBEs;
  • showcase NBE solutions to the public and private sector;
  • feature tenders and opportunities for funding for NBEs;
  • support collaboration and networking between NBEs;
  • create sector-specific training content and webinars for NBEs.

There are 3 general types of nature-based solutions covering everything from natural rainforests to highly engineered water management systems.  Nature-based enterprises can help to plan, implement and manage these nature-based solutions.

Enterprises that directly or indirectly deliver nature-based solutions may be 'for profit' or 'not-for-profit'. The following table shows the relationship between nature-based solutions and nature-based enterprises and gives examples of nature-based enterprises that deliver different types of NBS, either directly or indirectly.





NBEs ↓

Type 1

Better use of natural/protected ecosystems

E.g. coastal mangrove

Type 2

NBS for sustainable managed ecosystems

E.g. natural urban forest, parks or gardens

Type 3

Design and management of new ecosystems

E.g. engineered green walls/roofs/water management

Direct use of nature:

NBEs often involved in implementation of NBS

Example: Nature Conservation NGO (non-profit)

Natuurpunt (BE)

Example: Constructed wetlands company (for profit)

FH Wetlands Systems Ltd. (IE)

Example: Horticulture company delivering green living rooms (for profit)

Helix Pflanzen GmbH (DE)

Indirect use of nature:

NBEs often involved in planning, advisory, management, monitoring etc

Example: Data company that monitors natural forests (for profit)



Example: Community interest company managing urban parks / gardens (non-profit)

Barking Riverside CIC (UK)

Example: Environmental NGO advising on community engagement in green space redesign (non-profit)

Greenspace Scotland (UK)

Any questions:

If you have any questions about the survey please contact Esmee Kooijman


Other Resources

Nature-based enterprises is a new area of research and practice and consequently, there is little in the way of resources. Some useful starting points are listed here:

Introductory webinars:

UrbanByNature webinar on nature-based entrepreneurship

Nature-based Enterprise Platform:

The Connecting Nature Enterprise platform is available on

Other useful documentation:

Burch, S, Andrachuk, M, Carey, D, Frantzeskaki, N, Schroeder, H, Mischkowski, N, & Loorbach, D (2016). Governing and accelerating transformative entrepreneurship: exploring the potential for small business innovation on urban sustainability transitionsCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability22, 26–32.

Eggermont, H, Balian, E, Azevedo, JMN, Beumer, V, Brodin, T, Claudet, J, … Le Roux, X (2015). Nature-based solutions: New influence for environmental management and research in EuropeGAIA, Vol. 24, pp. 243–248.

Frantzeskaki, N, McPhearson, T, Collier, MJ, Kendal, D, Bulkeley, H, Dumitru, A, … Pintér, L (2019). Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Climate Change Adaptation: Linking Science, Policy, and Practice Communities for Evidence-Based Decision-MakingBioScience69(6), 455–466.

Kooijman, McQuaid et al (2021) “Nature-based Enterprises: a new typology”. Forthcoming.

McQuaid & Fletcher (2020) NBE platform infographic

McQuaid & Kooijman (2020) NBE survey results infographic

McQuaid, Kooijman et al (2021) “Nature-based Enterprises: barriers and enablers to growth”. Forthcoming.

Sarabi, Han, Romme, Vries, & Wendling (2019). Key Enablers of and Barriers to the Uptake and Implementation of Nature-Based Solutions in Urban Settings: A ReviewResources8(3), 121.