Q&A with Professor David Hill CEnv | #IAmCEnv
Professor David Hill CEnv has answered a couple of our questions on becoming a Chartered Environmentalist, why he works within the biodiversity sector and giving his advice to inspiring professionals. Keep reading to find out more about David Hill and his career.
Q Why do you do what you do?
I brought the idea or concept of biodiversity offsetting and gains for nature from development to the UK. Which in 2021 was made mandatory (biodiversity net gain) in the Environment Act. This means that practically all development has to demonstrate a minimum uplift in biodiversity of 10% as a result of that development. This is a game changer for how the planning and development control sector is dealing with biodiversity loss.
I have also been working most recently on promoting environmental markets for natural capital. I’m doing this because I believe passionately that we simply have to restore biodiversity globally and one important way of doing that is by making nature economically visible. We will only be able to shift the dial on biodiversity by putting private investment into largely private landholdings. My work is facilitating this.
Q How did you get to where you are now?
I started my career working with a number of environmental NGO’s, including the RSPB. I wrote or co-authored a few books. Such as Bird Census Techniques, Managing Habitats for Conservation, and Handbook of Biodiversity Methods. Before deciding to establish one of the first environmental consultancies in the UK, which I eventually sold to an engineering and environmental PLC. At one time I was President of the then Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.
By 2006 I was a founding Board member of Natural England and later became Deputy Chair. But that same year I also established the Environment Bank as a means of lobbying Government to properly address the treatment of biodiversity within the planning system. 14 years later my idea was made law which places a legal duty on planning authorities to ensure development delivers biodiversity net gain.
In the meantime I had become Chair of Plantlife International, the Northern Upland Nature Partnership, and a Board Trustee of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. All of these posts helped me to understand the role of a number of sectors that impact on biodiversity through land management. With the mandating of biodiversity net gain I realised that I needed to seek investment into the Environment Bank in order to grow the business and facilitate putting large tracts of land into conservation management, working with the landholding sectors.
I partnered with Gresham House, a major private equity investment business specialising in sustainability businesses. Together we laughed our habitat Banks with a £220m cash injection. We are currently setting up habitat banks at pace across the country to satisfy the impending demand from developers for BNG credits.
We have grown from a staff of 4 to 45 in 18 months, and will have 93 staff by the end of 2023. This staff number is required in order to underpin our large scale and transformative habitat banks and we now have the whole process of land on-boarding and sales/transactions, mapped out in great detail.
Q What does being a CEnv mean to you?
Chartered Environmentalist status means that as ecologists we have equal standing to other professions with the Chartered designation. For too long the environmental professionals were at the bottom of the food chain. With climate change mitigation and adaptation, the Government (and society’s) emphasis on nature recovery and restoration, the skills of ecologists and environmentalists are highly sought after.
The CEnv qualification generates trust from prospective employers and clients and enables ecology to be taken more seriously than was the case 15 years ago.
Q What advice would you give to aspiring environmental professionals/students?
Remain true to the cause. Read as much as you can both around the subject and outside of it. Keep up to speed on posts on environmental economics/natural capital. Read lots of history books. It’s amazing how much we don’t remember or know from our past. Things that can provide solutions to future problems. Don’t stick to 9 to 5! Put in the hours.
In your early career try and publish popular pieces around your subject matter so that you get noticed and make a contribution.
Join organisations as a trustee or Board member. Ask lots of questions of experienced practitioners. Have a good sense of humour and be able to point fun at yourself. Be the first to admit your mistakes or failings. Put nature first in everything you do. Be collaborative and work with others.
Professor David Hill is a Chartered Environmentalist registered via: