A few thoughts after the Valuing Nature’s Business Impact School

Taking seriously the email my supervisor sent me that morning to inform me about the Business Impact School was perhaps one of the wisest things I have done during the first months of my PhD journey. I immediately felt that I had to be part of this community and that I had to take hold of the opportunity Valuing Nature was offering to restless environmentally-conscious young researchers like myself, to get on the wagon to the frontline of the war we declared against nature capital's mismanagement. 

I have never been a fan of cities as vibrant as London, the (technically wasted) time in the tube only confirmed that, but I cannot hide the fact that I felt especially privileged to receive speeches from natural capital specialists on one of the top floors of this, as many of the speakers put it, grey jungle. There were indeed some truly interesting speeches whose interest levels were heavily correlated with the speakers’ experience and for some, their ability to provoke (and perhaps upset) the average young environmental researcher’s mindset. Being upset though, triggers a need to escape from the culprit situation by isolating it and see it within the bigger picture as draw attention to the positive side of it.  Generally, I realised two things during these three days: First, in our aim as global citizens who invest in governments to represent us, we have so far achieved much less in the pursuit of sustainability than we are given the impression, and this is especially disappointing. Luckily, my second realization was that there are some people out there, including our generous hosts, that are genuinely determined to reverse this situation and accelerate these efforts without any additional personal gain. And they have shown us that there are ways to do so.  It seems that suits do not completely alter our species’ priorities after all, as the urban legend would suggest. It was pointed out to us that wearing a suit is probably the best way to have an effective contribution and influence the direction money goes to. It was a great pleasure to see a true motivation in that room on the Willis Tower Watson’s 21st floor to carry on the fight even though we have been showered with reassurances that we are not responsible for the mess we find ourselves into.

The first piece of advice all researchers will hear in their maiden voyage to the world of conferences/workshops/schools etc. is that these events’ biggest benefit is the ground they offer to develop networking with fellow researchers. Well, there must be a good reason they say so. One of the most useful sessions of the Business Impact School was the introduction of all participants’ research backgrounds in a speed-presentation style, as it gave everyone the opportunity to have clear targets during the limited socialising/networking time preceding the third glass of wine at the Italian restaurant we were dining every night. I have already come in contact with a few fellow researchers to exchange material and ideas but I suspect that the benefit will be a long-term one as research is a journey without limits. I am expecting a few bells to be rung during the next years while shyly exploring new areas.

My concluding point is that attending the Business Impact School was for me like switching on the lights in a dark room, one I have not been to before. It opened my eyes about the world beyond academia. Most importantly, it gave me the sense of belonging to a community with a common aim and various tools to achieve it. 

I would like to thank Valuing Nature for the great opportunity.