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Connecting Landscape and Economy in Yorkshire: The Case For Doing Business With Yorkshire’s Landscapes

26/03/2019 Think Piece

Yorkshire landscapes matter to Nestlé. Based in York since the 1830s and producing famous brands like KitKat, Milkybar and Aero, factories like ours need resilient supply chains, with local sourcing options for ingredients. For example, the biscuit flour for our KitKat production is sourced from Yorkshire, Humberside and North Lincolnshire. This gives us a vested interest in resilient soils and farm businesses in the region. Our logistics operations can be disrupted by flooding, and so the performance of river catchments above the city (the Swale, Ure, Nidd and Ouse) all have a material impact on our business.

  Andy Griffiths –Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Nestlé UK & Ireland   We also place a high value on quality natural environments for our people. Based in Yorkshire, they are surrounded by landscapes of unrivalled natural beauty. This is as important to their welfare as it is to our business, feeding our ability to attract and retain talent in York. While some worldwide challenges, such as food supply and soil sustainability, require a global effort, we need to seek and realise solutions at a local level. Research commissioned by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (YNYER) and the Local Nature Partnership (LNP), suggests that by drawing value and income from our landscapes, our ‘natural capital’, we can drive business performance and operational efficiency, while simultaneously tackling environmental threats. There are 48,000 businesses in York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding, generating £24 billion of value every year. Surprisingly, while playing a significant cultural role in the evolution of the landscape, land-based agricultural businesses represent only 2% of that total. Agri-food businesses are obvious examples of those that may have a vested interest in ‘natural capital, yet in reality 40% of our regional income, gained through tourism and manufacturing, has a direct and tangible dependence on the land. Managing these dependencies is an opportunity both for farmers and for land managers as well as for businesses in the wider economy. Soil management measures can have a direct impact on water flow and infiltration rates, and in turn, on flooding in and around manufacturing operations, the types of businesses that make up more than 20% of our regional GVA. Soil quality also impacts water quality and is therefore of great interest to Yorkshire Water and all of us living here. Bathing water quality underpins the £800m coastal tourism sector in the East Riding alone. York businesses, their insurers and investors are all clients of landscapes. Agricultural, flood mitigation and recreational landscapes, all bear significance on the health of our urban economy. The interrelation between urban and rural economies cannot be over-stated, and more often remains under-stated. The Skell Valley Project draws together a consortium, including the National Trust and Nidderdale AONB, to manage river flow and sedimentation issues that have impacted the river catchment. It is just one example of existing initiatives around collaborative land management. However, we need a broader approach that appeals to the SMEs that make up the vast majority of businesses in the area. Welcome to Yorkshire, Yorkshire’s official tourism agency, agrees that investing in the landscape is vital, not only to mitigate against the repeating inconveniences of flooding to SMEs, but also to guard the region’s international profile as a holiday destination. Only recently the 3 Peaks route was closed to walkers for the weekend due to flooding. This kind of news impacts on destination choices for holiday-makers. To engage SMEs in investing in landscapes, we need to build collaboration and capacity, which can be achieved through Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs). LENs can help identify where businesses share interests, in the same parts of the Yorkshire landscape. Working collaboratively, those businesses, whatever their size, could pool resources to secure and improve shared natural assets for the long term, working with farmers and others who manage the land. The LENs approach can also be used in tandem with the principles of public funds for public goods to deliver blended finance propositions and further enhance positive impact on our natural assets and the benefits they deliver. The research is in its infancy and we’re just scratching the surface of our region’s potential to enhance the value of its abundant natural capital, with significant pay off for natural resources and landscapes. The LENs approach is a proven mechanism for creating business partnerships that co-invest in landscapes. Yorkshire’s agri-food businesses, manufacturing and tourism would all benefit from the creation of these value chains, with farmers and land managers paid to deliver these values from their land. Critically, at scale, LENs can drive business behaviours that give back to the resource base, addressing existential threats through a business focussed lens.    
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