National Grid - Natural Grid

The Asda Environmental Leadership Award, Finalist, 2016

National Grid is working with local partners to transform the way they manage their landholdings, improving biodiversity and conservation as well as adding value to their business.

Good for the environment

  • National Grid has seen an increase in species diversity and associated biodiversity on many of its sites through its Natural Grid programme.
  • The company has also used the programme to increase community involvement in conservation through public events, activities, and partnership working.

Good for business

  • National Grid's natural capital accounting has enabled it to prioritise action and target investment to deliver the greatest environmental, social and economic returns.
  • By including the value of natural resources in business decisions, National Grid has been able to make environmental gains tangible and measure its impact.

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Overview

Overexploitation of natural resources has caused damage to ecosystems and biodiversity in some areas of the UK. National Grid saw an opportunity to protect and enhance natural resources by managing their landholdings differently.

The Natural Grid programme conducts ‘scenario analysis’ through a natural capital valuation tool which compares different management options for each site over a 30 year period. This helps them to target investment and work with local partners to determine the route which will deliver the greatest social and environmental benefits. 

In this way Natural Grid is tailored to each site. At Ambergate in Derbyshire - a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest – financial investment, community events, conservation activities, and employee volunteer work days have enabled an increase in species diversity and associated biodiversity across the site. Other initiatives include the installation of wildlife boxes on urban landholdings, and bee colonies hosted in rural areas.

The Natural Grid programme is helping to create bigger, better, and more connected spaces for nature. Natural capital accounting is helping National Grid to make smart decisions about the future of their landholdings, in terms of environmental impact but also financial management. 

Raising awareness of natural capital

The development of the tools that National Grid uses to recognise and account for the value of natural assets has been accompanied by work to raise awareness of natural capital. By introducing the concept of the ‘Natural Grid’ the company was able to translate messages about the environment and conservation into language that resonates within their business.

A Sustainability Steering Group has worked across the business to encourage employee engagement, inform decision making, and increase awareness of the value that environmental management can deliver. This has led field teams to suggest new sites for inclusion in the programme and identify opportunities for site enhancement that would fit with local community priorities.

Focus on Ambergate 

National Grid's Ambergate site in Derbyshire consists of 77 acres of operational and non-operational land. Part of the site had been identified as a Local Nature Reserve and was recently designated by Natural England as part of a new Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

The company worked with stakeholders, including Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT), farmers, Natural England and community representatives to explore various options informed by their modelled scenarios. Based on this engagement a five year management plan was developed that enhanced the site, encouraged public access, and provided National Grid with better information on the landscape’s value.  

The project included popular community events highlighting the importance of the site and its rich biodiversity, including a Wildflower and Butterfly walk and ‘Fungal Forays’. These events have increased the number of local volunteers actively participating in conservation activities at the site along with National Grid employee volunteers cutting back around ten acres of bramble, thistles and scrub which were encroaching on important grassland. 

Actions from the management plan have led to an increase in species diversity and an improvement in the condition of the SSSI area. National Grid's calculations project an increase of natural capital value of around £255,000 over 30 years. Based on the company's initial financial investment the project shows a cost benefit ratio of 6:1.

What National Grid's CEO said:

“There has never been a more pressing time for businesses to protect and enhance natural resources. Our Natural Grid approach ensures we manage our land and natural assets when making investment and operational decisions. And that, most importantly, they are there for the longer term.” - Steve Holliday, CEO National Grid