7 tips to Engage Decision-makers to Influence Biodiversity Policy

24 May 2024

As a young person, it’s easy to feel powerless when trying to influence policies and decision-making, especially when you want to stand up for Nature against powerful entities that profit from harmful practices or political inaction. However, it is important to remember that each and every one of us can take action and stand up for what we believe in. One of the most effective ways to do this is through lobbying, i.e., influencing decisions made by policymakers – be it at the local, regional, national or international level.

Written with the contribution of Alice Pasqualato, Policy Officer, Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime.

Giulia Testa, now EYR coordinator, kickstarted and led a youth advocacy project focused on the Nature Restoration law back in 2021.

Biodiversity lobbying is crucial as it directly influences key environmental policies and laws. Powerful opposing lobbies can quickly undermine years of progress on environmental issues, as demonstrated by the delayed and weakened Nature Restoration Law. Effective biodiversity lobbying also secures funding and support for key services, such as environmental law enforcement and educational programs. Additionally, it shows policymakers that environmentalists are a competent and organised force that cannot be ignored.

What exactly is lobbying and where do I even start?

Lobbying can take various forms: it can be done through a direct engagement with policymakers, or through grassroots and/or media campaigns. Direct lobbying includes activities like engaging with policymakers and their staff, for example by providing data and other technical information, drafting suggestions and proposing alternative approaches. Grassroots lobbying and media campaigns, on the other hand, focus on mobilising the public to influence their representatives through public campaigns and advocacy, as well as targeted media outreach. This article will primarily focus on direct lobbying strategies.

Getting involved in lobbying may seem daunting at first, but there are practical steps to get started. Firstly, conduct thorough research on the issue you are passionate about and identify your advocacy goals. Next, look for like-minded people as well as experts who can support you, both by sharing the mental/emotional burden of this endeavour and by providing their expertise (hint – the EYR network might be a great place to find your team)!

Once you have assembled your team, discuss your strategy and identify your target audience. Research who you need to influence to obtain your desired outcome and what the steps are to achieving this. As a next step, draft your written material such as draft emails, a collection of scientific studies on the topic, a short (but convincing!) briefing paper explaining the issue and possible solutions, social media material, etc.

Now it is time to reach out to the policymaker! You might be able to find their contact information online, or alternatively you might need to call or visit their workplace directly (i.e., the city council) to ask for an appointment. In-person meetings are normally the most effective, but when they are not possible make sure you ask for a phone or video call instead. If you don’t receive an answer within a reasonable timeframe, get creative! For example, you could send your material via post as, nowadays, public figures are often overwhelmed by emails. After your meeting, don’t forget to follow up and share all the material you discussed.

Alright, now that we have covered the basics, here are seven key tips to bolster success in championing your cause.

1. Mind your manners

No matter their political affiliations, what they have done or said: always approach policymakers with respect. Policymakers are human beings, like everyone else, and they won’t respond well to personal attacks. Remember, you want them to listen to you.


2. Cast a large shadow

Your advocacy is going to be most effective when you can speak on behalf of a larger group. There are a few strategies you can implement to gather support, such as approaching organisations or advocacy groups and ask if they want to team up. Alternatively, you could collect signatures through a petition and link it in your correspondence with policymakers, or write an open letter. If you do, don’t forget to include experts for a stronger case!


3. Tailor your task

Not every policymaker will be interested in biodiversity so get their attention by linking biodiversity to a topic of importance to them. Biodiversity protection can be easily linked to topics such as public health (e.g., see the correlation between urban rewilding and air quality, or the positive impact of green spaces on mental health) or economic opportunities, such as ecotourism.


4. Find a champion

Identify an “insider” who is willing to champion your cause, such as a member of the city council/Parliament. Policymakers are more likely to listen to their peers, so your lobbying might be more effective if one of them champions it as their own. You might not always take credit for your ideas and work but remember: this is not about you, it’s about the cause!


5. Narrow your focus

Keep your lobbying strategy focused on a handful of key priorities. Keep it clear and concise. Policymakers are busy and their attention span is short, so your lobbying is more likely to be successful if it has a narrow focus and can be summed up in about 3-6 points. Therefore, your letter/briefing note should not be longer than 1-2 pages – you can always hyperlink longer resources such as articles and studies.


6. Propose solutions and make their job as easy as possible

It’s just as important to suggest possible solutions as it is to explain the problem. Once your target audience has understood the importance of the issue being presented, they will want to know how they can take action. Be ready to propose possible solutions and don’t be afraid to go into detail. Do as much research as you can so that you are able to suggest exactly what steps are needed and when.


7. Recognise a lost cause

Some policymakers’ priorities are just too distant from your own, so make sure you invest your energy wisely. Be strategic with your time and mental capacity and focus on people/entities that are more likely to be persuaded and interested in the topic you are advocating for.


Now that you have these tips and tricks up your sleeve, don’t be afraid to go out and start lobbying for biodiversity and wildlife! The time to act for a better future is now – together we can stand up for nature and make the youth voice louder than ever. Let’s get lobbying!