Visualizing Nature-Based Solutions

Trends / Sustainability
Kristian Bell
Sandra Michalska
Jun 25, 2021
The future of sustainability lies in regeneration and cooperation with nature. While the early Covid‑19 lockdown provided a small glimpse of a more environmentally harmonious world, doing less harm is no longer enough: the green recovery will require immediate action. By restoring forests and wetlands, and protecting oceans and ecosystems, humanity can bolster the natural processes that trap atmospheric carbon in vegetation. Nature‑based solutions offer a way forward, from protecting, restoring and managing biodiversity to introducing more green zones to cities.  

Since this process can't happen overnight, brands have the chance to elevate their strategy with a long‑term vision that honours future generations and, most importantly, resonates with their audience. According to our Visual GPS research, 8 in 10 consumers wants to engage with companies that make the world a better place. So, the right visuals can help brands and organizations that are investing in these solutions communicate their actions to consumers.
The benefits of nature‑based solutions are multi‑faceted for brands, societies and the planet. The World Economic Forum forecasts that a “nature‑positive” economy could generate $10.1 trillion in business value annually as well as 395 million new jobs by 2030. Another study suggests that nature‑based solutions can provide 37% of CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 in order to reach the Paris Agreement goals. Interestingly, from our Visual GPS study, we know that CO2 sequestration is a major focus for consumers: close to half state “reducing company carbon footprint” is the most important way companies can show their commitment to sustainability.

And yet a similar number, (over 4 in 10) consumers do not know how to reduce their carbon footprint so visualising the process or the benefits of reducing carbon is not visually obvious.
While Baby Boomers are the most educated on how to reduce one's carbon footprint, Gen Z is not fully aware of how to take action. This presents an opportunity for brands to educate and drive visual literacy around nature‑based solutions.
When selecting visuals of nature‑based solutions, think about different visual scenarios. For instance, around 25% of all CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean, making it one of the world's largest "carbon sinks". And while the idea of using mighty trees or abundant mangroves to visualise how to absorb greenhouse gases is hardly new, nature‑based solutions can apply to a whole range of differentiated imagery, illustration or video representing restoration and conservation of many types of ecosystems contributing to CO2 mitigation: wetlands, grasslands, peatlands, mangroves, agricultural lands, salt marshes, forests, coastlines, but also ‑ agroforestry, permaculture or simply introducing green zones to the urban areas. Be specific in your visual choices, educate your audience about nature‑based solutions as a way to express your vision for green recovery.
Actionable Tips

When choosing visuals, think locally: consider local environments, local communities' knowledge and humans that cooperate with nature for the benefit of everyone. Show the empowerment and emotional rewards of nature‑based solutions on the lives of real people. When choosing visuals with people, always remember to empower all people by representing all intersectional identities and age groups.
Reconsider using visual clichés representing mangroves, or traditional green tones associated with sustainability. Think about a richer colour palette while bringing more variety to your scenarios by searching for these keywords:

  • Carbon Capture, Carbon Storage
  • Wetland, Peatland, Salt Marsh, Seagrass, Mangroves, Forest, Coastline, 
  • Reforestation, Rewilding, Rewetting
  • Biodiversity, Wildlife
  • Environmental Conservation
  • Agroforestry, Permaculture
  • Renewable Energy, Biomass
  • Green City
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