28 June 2023

Unlocking opportunities for the rural economy through natural capital investment markets

NICRE-commissioned research

Emerging natural capital investment markets have been identified as a way for agriculture to help reduce net emissions, claim carbon neutrality and purchase credits, however, there is limited understanding of how these voluntary trading opportunities can benefit rural enterprises, writes Dr Rounaq Nayak, lecturer in sustainability, Bournemouth University. Our project seeks to uncover the mechanisms through which these markets can contribute to a successful and sustainable rural economy.

This research, one of seven projects funded by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), takes a dual approach to achieve its objectives. Firstly, we are examining how rural enterprises navigate voluntary carbon and other natural capital investment markets, identifying the strategies they employ to overcome limitations and maximise opportunities. Secondly, we are focusing on identifying the priorities for rural businesses in terms of enterprise and innovation potential within these markets, as well as the resources needed to achieve their goals. Through the development of infographics and animations, we will effectively communicate the goals and targets of carbon and natural capital investment markets to rural enterprise.


Sustainable and inclusive future

Central to our project is the active engagement of stakeholders in the rural economy who frequently interact with these markets. By fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing, we aim to co-create best practices and solutions that directly benefit rural enterprises. This participatory approach will inform local and regional policies, facilitating greater support and engagement of rural enterprises with carbon markets. Our project team is working closely with stakeholders, ensuring their insights and experiences shape our research outcomes.

Through the analysis of collected data and in collaboration with rural stakeholders, we will develop a user-centred toolkit comprising evidence-based solutions to enhance stakeholder engagement with carbon and natural investment markets. By unlocking the potential of the rural economy and supporting the growth of rural enterprises, our toolkit will serve as a valuable resource for stakeholders seeking to navigate these markets successfully.

We firmly believe that by understanding and addressing the needs of rural enterprises, we aim to develop the platform for creating a sustainable and inclusive future for the rural economy.

Our diverse team of experts brings together a range of disciplines and experience to ensure the success of this project. My research interests lie in understanding the impact of standards and policies on local communities. Professors Damian Maye, Julie Ingram (both from the Countryside and Community Research Institute), and Karl Behrendt (from Harper Adams University) each contribute their expertise in agri-food sustainability transition, stakeholder engagement, and decision support systems. Additionally, Professor Jian Chang and Dr Ehtzaz Chaudhary, from Bournemouth University’s National Centre for Computer Animation, will play a crucial role in designing an engaging short animation that explains carbon trading and the carbon market.

We are excited about the immense potential of our research project to unlock opportunities for the rural economy through carbon and natural capital investment markets. The insights gained from this project will not only inform local and regional policies but will also contribute to a broader understanding of the transformative role of these markets. We are grateful for the support from NICRE and look forward to sharing our findings with the research community and stakeholders of the rural economy. Together, we are aiming to pave the way for a thriving and resilient rural economy.