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  • Writer's pictureMick Coleman

The way in to commercial conservation

The Australian working year has a rhythm to it. In the summer of 2019-20, the rhythm went awry. Instead of a summer of rest and recreation, the country has had trauma, bushfires and awakening to the reality of a warming planet.

Some commentators predict Australia will finally start taking solid regulatory steps towards carbon neutrality and land rehabilitation. If nothing else, it's become clear that the anti-environment arguments are wrong. Policy intervention to mitigate planetary damage is not utopian or extreme, it's sensible and eminently do-able. We've seen once fossil-dependent European countries manage this, with impressive multi-partisanship, for many years. It could be our time.

However, at policy level I'm expecting modest if any improvement, not a national pivot. Australian Governments and business lobbies have had all the evidence of warming and its causes for decades, but have argued against the environment at every step. They have had great success with Australian voters, with News Corp doing their marketing and the US president as their champion. It's worked for them, and I'm doubtful they'll change. I hope I'm wrong.

The working year resumes in earnest today, the first working day after 26 January. If you're like me, these first couple of weeks are a gentle interlude. Work hasn't ramped up, and you have time to organise catch-ups, do the annual wardrobe shop, catch some tennis in the breakout room, do some reading. You might even plan a program of work for the year. This year, top of mind is what a legal and advisory business can do to improve the state of the environment, in Australia 2020.

Having had some time to think about the links between law, conservation and finance, my goal (alongside running a law firm) will be setting up a conservation investment business. It will be a vehicle to find and manage funding for businesses that will improve the planet and achieve return on investment. They might be native nurseries, landscape and restoration firms, green technology, waste management, or sharing economy IT and applications. Or supply chain and facilitator firms that help those businesses run. They will be home-grown, good to work with and not too big (leaving wind farms and electric vehicles to the big guys).

I need to do a few things - get my own investment model in order; work out how to get businesses investment-ready without spending scarce funds on consultants or finders' fees; get quality advisers on board; and link up with partners and investors of goodwill.

This is not an original plan. From 3 minutes research, I know organisations like Clear Sky Investments and Impact Investment Group work in this space. My super is with Australian Ethical Investment, which invests in non-harmful business on an industrial scale. No doubt many operators in the world of venture capital, private equity, finders and advisers are interested in sustainability.

We'll see what the year brings. Shout out if you're an investor, environmental economist or green business. And happy 2020 resumption to all - may all our years improve.

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