Getty images. Saunton Sands beach sea

SWEEP is five year programme to deliver environmental, economic and social benefits to the South West of the UK (Cornwall, Isles of Scilly, Devon and Somerset). It will do this by supporting businesses, local authorities and landowners with the decisions they need to make in relation to how they make investments, manage or utilise the natural environment (also known as natural capital – those elements of nature producing value for people).

SWEEP has five ‘Impact Themes’ aimed at generating benefits or avoiding costs for businesses, policymakers or communities. Together they also seek to address the long-term decline in the natural capital on which our economic growth, well-being and prosperity in the South West depend.

1. Safeguarding natural capital to increase resilience – e.g. reducing the risk of flood events or coastal storms disrupting businesses or communities.

2. Integrated policymaking for natural capital-led growth - work with local authorities or other public decision makers to ensure that the natural environment is considered when making investments to support economic growth.

3. Boosting the business sector: new markets for natural capital – to support the development of schemes that help the business sector increase their profits or cut their costs while at the same time improving the natural environment, e.g. helping water companies and farmers get together to find ways to boost farm incomes but cut the use of pesticides or fertilisers to improve water quality.

4. Restoring natural capital for economic and social benefit – e.g. to support planning decisions that will help to restore areas of the marine environment that are currently in a poor state, leading to economic (fisheries, tourism) and community (recreation, wellbeing) benefits.

5. Adding value: Mainstreaming natural capital into private and public sector decision making – bringing together the improvements provided by the first four themes to maximise the benefits are delivered to the region in terms of environmental protection, economic growth and community wellbeing.

“The South West draws much of its socioeconomic potential from its ‘natural capital’, and so as a region, it relies heavily upon the natural environment. SWEEP brings together a diverse range of groups from academia, business and other sectors to look at how we enhance our natural capital, how we preserve and restore it, and maximize the economic return. SWEEP draws upon the research strengths of Plymouth, Exeter and PML, who together represent a genuine centre of excellence in marine and terrestrial science.”
Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the Marine Institute