Unlocking change

Environment Agency, Defra and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation collaboration

Devon Wildlife Trust

In 2019, we formed a collaborative pilot with the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to support environmental projects in creating funding models which could be replicated by other projects up and down the country.

We made over £500,000 of research and development grant funding (split equally between the three partners) to four projects that are delivering environmental improvement, helping them to develop business plans and identify additional revenue sources to complement ongoing public sector support.

The four funded projects include the Moors for the Future Partnership's proposed use of payments by results to cover upfront capital costs of bog restoration and the Rivers Trust’s work on natural flood management in Lancashire. You can learn more about each project in Raising new money for nature.



More money is needed to restore and improve our natural world.

Impact goals

In line with our approach to social investment, this collaboration meets our objective for impact-first direct investments that support new innovative financial models. The work will also help us to achieve our goals in Our Natural World:

  • Preserved and improved species and habitats
  • Clean and healthy freshwater
Ben Smith, Head of Social Investment, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation:

We believe this funding will support the sustainability of initiatives that meet our goals and may enable them to attract private sector investment to deliver environment benefits and financial returns. As well as the potential for the selected initiatives to be replicated, we also hope these grants will help us better understand effective financial models that can help us raise additional money for nature.

Andy Slaney, Senior Specialist, Future Funding, Environment Agency:

The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan made clear that while the public sector will continue to be an important source of funding for the natural environment, it is critical that this is alongside more private sector investment. These four pilot schemes will protect and restore valuable habitats whilst generating vital lessons regarding investment approaches that we hope we can replicate and scale to deliver continued environmental improvements in the future.

Harry Barton, CEO, Devon Wildlife Trust:

Caen Wetlands is a truly outstanding natural and cultural landscape – over the coming months we’ll be working alongside a wide range of partners, expert consultants and local communities to explore the opportunities to create new wetland habitats and visitor facilities, where people will have the opportunity to see north Devon’s wildlife at its best. I am delighted to be working with the Environment Agency, Defra and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation on this exciting project. Funding pilots like these is exactly what we need to turn the bold ambitions of properly valuing our natural capital into reality.

Mark Lloyd, CEO, The Rivers Trust

The Rivers Trust is very excited to be working on this ground-breaking project looking at new ways to fund Natural Flood Management. We hope it will help us understand the mechanisms that can unlock private investment to help deliver nature recovery, coupled with a reduction in flood risk, at the scale and pace which is urgently required.

The Rivers Trust is working with a range of partners on a Natural Flood Management pilot in the Wyre catchment. You can learn more about the work in the video below:

Learn more

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