Corporate plan: 1 Champion the Welsh environment and the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources

Llyn y dywarchen Snowdonia - photo taken by Rhys Huges

Where are we now?

SoNaRR tells us that the current approach to managing natural resources in Wales is not sustainable in the long-term – our key natural resources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. Biodiversity is declining and no ecosystems in Wales can be said to have all the attributes of resilience. In recent years, water quality has improved – but there is a long way to go before all freshwater bodies in Wales have good ecological status. And although air quality has improved, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen and renewable energy generation has increased, air pollution continues to be a significant health issue1.

Wales’ ecological footprint has been calculated at five times the actual area of the country. This means that five times the land area of Wales is needed to provide the raw materials, energy and food to supply Wales currently and to absorb the pollution and waste created1.

People do show concern about the natural environment: 67% people in Wales are concerned about climate change, with most attributing it to human activity1, and 43% of people are concerned about future changes to biodiversity2. Also, 3% of people have volunteered to help protect the environment1. But there is more to do.

Managed sustainably, people and businesses would derive even more benefits from natural resources than they do already– food, jobs, recreation, raw materials, energy, clean air and water. This is so long as everyone in Wales grasps the opportunities and understands the need to do some things differently in future – to live and work more sustainably.

We in NRW will champion the natural environment and help people make the most of the benefits it offers, as well as valuing it for its own sake – now and for future generations.


Where do we want to be long term? 

NRW will be recognised as the champion for the natural environment in Wales and as a global leader in its field. We will have a strong voice, independent opinions and our views will be respected in Wales and around the world. We will bring people together around shared priorities and channel funding where it can achieve the best results based on the best evidence available. We are and will be an evidence-based organisation, undertaking operations, giving advice and making decisions based on best available evidence. Our evidence will be shared with others, and they will share what they have, providing as complete a picture for Wales as possible.

We will lead by doing and practise what we preach, showing how the sustainable management of natural resources works on the land and water we manage. At the same time, we will try out new ways of doing things, learning from others as we go – locally, nationally and internationally – and encourage others to do the same.

We will encourage changes in behaviour and the ways everyone does things in Wales – and derive the benefits – through increasing understanding of the importance of the natural environment in people’s day-to-day lives. Full life-cycle costs for projects will be considered – for raw materials, running and recycling or disposal – including the environmental costs. We will hold to account those causing environmental damage, where encouragement has failed and enforcement is necessary. We will take the lead and continue to minimise our own environmental impact, as a carbon-positive organisation.

We want the sustainable management of natural resources to be fundamental to all decision making in the public, private and voluntary sectors. We would also like to see the avoidance of damage to the natural environment and maximising social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits of decisions becomes the norm. 

What will NRW do up to 2022 to help make this happen?

Lead by example

  • Develop a detailed shared vision for the natural environment of Wales and what the sustainable management of natural resources will be like by 2050, including milestones along the way
  • Make sure everything we do exemplifies the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources and highlights the benefits and opportunities the natural environment provides
  • Embed SMNR and the SMNR principles into all our own work, across our organisation, and inspire others to do the same. Listen to, and understand, other sectors’ requirements of the natural environment, encouraging them to match their needs to what is sustainable
  • Develop our evidence base and a new NRW evidence strategy to underpin SMNR, linked to SoNaRR and existing plans such as the Nature Recovery Action Plan strengthening evidence and identifying gaps

Working with our partners

  • Co-produce seven Area Statements, which will enable the NRP to be implemented locally demonstrating the benefits of SMNR. The first set will be published by 2020, and be under regular review. Activities will be targeted where there is most benefit to be gained for both people and the natural environment
  • Continue our active role in all PSBs across Wales helping to produce the first set of Well-being Plans by March 2018. We will ensure that the three key challenges and three national priorities for the management of our natural resources are incorporated, and provide local evidence via the Area Statements
  • Ensure everyone understands the importance and the difference the natural environment and its sustainable management can make to people’s lives to influence decisions and behaviours
  • Learn from SMNR good practice across the world and apply to our work
  • Work with our local PSB partners to help deliver the Well-being Plans
  • Work with academic institutions to look at the impact of emerging technologies and approaches to both producing evidence and helping to change behaviours
  • Share our data and evidence with others and make best use of their information
  • Fill gaps in evidence needs identified in SoNaRR 2016
  • Deliver the evidence needs of the Nature Recovery Action Plan working with our partners
  • Contribute to the Welsh Government’s refresh of the UK Marine Science Strategy
  • Lead the ambition and delivery for Wales’ public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030 through our Carbon Positive project

Indicators for Wales: How will we know if anything has changed?


  • Ecological footprint of Wales – Welsh Government National Indicator3
  • People’s concern about climate change – Welsh Government National Indicator3
  • People’s understanding and valuing of the benefit we receive from natural resources – National Survey of Wales4

Phil Newman - People always say; why do you enjoy that sort of job? it's about having that long-term data that I can look at and point and say we did that...

Related document downloads

Our Plan to 2022 - Easy read Looking after nature now for our children to enjoy PDF [16.8 MB]
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