Nature For Justice and Cultivo:
A Common Vision

We aspire to be a leader in using nature-based solutions to achieve social justice for communities affected by the climate crisis.

The Nature For Justice (N4J) team brings decades of experience in promoting rural economic development, finding a path for business to be mindful of environmental issues, addressing the need for justice, equity and social inclusion, and helping communities help themselves. 

For example, our newest senior advisor, Kevin Bryan, has deep experience in helping environmental groups define a path for promoting justice and seeking equity.

But a gap analysis of our skill sets has shown a hole: we’re seeking to build a durable bridge between communities and investors, but we lack access to and experience in the latest assessment technologies and databases.

A friend and the founder of Root Capital, Willy Foote, had an idea. After hearing our vision and desire for partners to help drive change, Willy said, “You know, I met a team of switched-on tech folks with a start-up called Cultivo, and I think it’s exactly what you need.”

Let’s talk about effective teams. A concept we embraced years ago was that teams that got stuff done were those with members who have a “T” shaped skill set: deep knowledge of at least one topic and general knowledge across a range of topics. We quickly recognized that the Cultivo team not only filled the gaps in our team but, equally importantly, could themselves benefit from learning from our experience embedding into communities’ social fabrics.

Flashback to my time in the Somali refugee camps (see Help People Where they Are) and a group of technologists who sent me a solar cooker with an overabundance of confidence that it was the Holy Grail for solving deforestation issues. Hmmm. So, on intensely sunny days, a 90-pound person will be able to avoid glare by holding 10 pounds of boiling water at arm’s length?

The intention was good, but the technologists had zero social pick-up, and my tent caught on fire after it warped following a rainstorm.

The Cultivo team, in contrast, understands how to help in a feasible, lasting way. Cultivo brings to the partnership an ability to help communities quantify the value of the natural capital stack – the biodiversity, water, carbon, and ecosystem services -– that they’ve lived with for generations and have begun to lose due to our changing climate. That’s part one.

“Diversity and resilience are important for investing. That’s why we select diverse projects across a range of ecosystems.”

Part two will be determining the potential of that natural capital stack if those communities were to adopt new land use practices that improved management, restored landscapes, and protected forests.

Monetizing and selling the differential to investors who see the value in one or more elements of the natural capital stack is the engine that will drive change – not philanthropy but real business investment.

Cultivo and N4J complement one another on our three foundational pillars: social inclusion, business durability, and science-based decision-making. We’re already applying those principles as we consider projects in Canada, Australia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica.

We’re reinventing an approach to addressing the climate crisis for the people most deeply affected. We’ll keep evolving until we get it right (see Thrive Through Reinvention).


  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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