Bahraini non-profit brings mother nature to the boardroom
MANAMA | Matt Smith
The scientific and technological advances of the past 150 years have made humanity more remote from the natural world as plunder and profit is arguably prioritised over environmental protection.
Bahraini social entrepreneur Leena Al Olaimy has made it her mission to reset the paradigm, launching non-profit Public Planet Partnerships (PPP) to train businesses in how to “team up” with nature to operate more efficiently and boost their bottom line.
“We see nature as something to protect - or exploit, unfortunately - but we don’t see it as something to collaborate with as a socioeconomic partner,” Olaimy says.
KNOWING NATURE’s WORTH
The World Bank values Earth’s natural assets at $100 trillion; California’s street trees annually provide $1 billion in services by regulating the atmosphere and preventing floods, for example, but such contributions are usually overlooked in conventional economics.
So, Olaimy’s PPP model is an ethos and step-by-step methodology enabling mutually beneficial and regenerative collaborations between humans and the natural world.
“We’d like to see PPP become widely used, so any new or existing business, NGO or government department would look at this framework and find it easy to implement,” she continues.
By public, Olaimy means businesses, multilateral organisations, scientists, governments and civil society. By planet, Olaimy means all life on earth as well as its vast resources.
PPP’s open-source tools combine design-thinking, management consulting and spiritual ecology with a science-based approach. With around 20 downloadable tools, organisations can gain unique insights, from reframing nature to see it as a technology to connecting with nature at an intuitive level. These toolkits are available in English, Arabic and French.
PPP’s co-founders piloted its programme at COP22, the United Nations’ 2016 climate change conference in Marrakech. PPP also received a $100,000 Expo Live grant to develop its methodology and toolkit and expand its case study library.
“We wanted to create a planet-centred toolkit that anyone could use and was accessible,” says Olaimy. “Most environmental frameworks are technical, so we set out to create something that would be easy to understand for everyone – from a changemaker to an entrepreneur, corporate innovator or government official.”
Her 12 partnership models include using nature as a sensor, a data partner, a waste manager, a purifier and a protector. For instance, giant pouched rats’ incredible sense of smell enables them to detect landmines and identify tuberculosis in human mucus samples.
“That’s an example of looking at what’s available to you and seeing the superpowers that particular species can offer you,” says Olaimy. “These partnerships should be a win-win, so we’d also look at the threats to that rat species and see how to mitigate these to ensure they thrive.”
A PPP bootcamp takes an organisation through a three-stage process. This begins with planet centering to reconnect with nature at a tactile, sensory and intuitive level. Phase two is “discovery”, where participants examine the available biological resources in their environment and identify potential ecological and species partners, as well as the non-human stakeholders. This phase determines the best bio strategies to adopt, while the final phase is planet partnering.
Adds Olaimy: “We create an inventory of the species available to you and the things these species do that could be useful to your business or organisation. We help you experiment – if you were to partner with this species as a data partner, how would that work? Or with another species as a nourisher, what would that entail?
“Once you have an idea, you need to develop a business case. You’d probably need an environmental economist to quantify the costs, for example, but the ideation process can be done by anyone.”
Professionals from more than 40 countries have used the toolkit.
“Most of the traction we’ve had has been with design thinkers, sustainability professionals, environmental NGOs.”
Meanwhile, PPP’s Udemy course is available in English and has been completed by 154 students as of mid-September 2020.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the traction we’ve had.”