Nature needs to be put at the heart of natural capital

14th July 2016

Nature needs to be put at the heart of natural capital – that’s the conclusion from a new report published today by a partnership of leading conservation and research organisations. 

The paper, put together by members of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), sets out how biodiversity is central to the natural capital framework and yet its values are often overlooked by businesses looking to understand and mitigate their environmental impact.

Biodiversity, the variety of plant and animal life in the world, is a fundamental component of natural capital, and influences almost all the products we use, from food to footwear.

One of the report’s lead authors, Thomas Maddox from Fauna & Flora International, said: “Biodiversity is essential to everyday life, it boosts ecosystem productivity and underpins most of the services that we all use and value on a daily basis. It is frequently listed as one of many concerns in natural capital assessments, alongside greenhouse gas emissions or water consumption; however its importance is often missed by businesses, which means that their impacts on biodiversity and their dependency upon it is overlooked.”

The paper explains the reasons why nature is often missed or hidden in natural capital assessments, as well as setting four positive steps that can be taken to better reflect these values in decision-making:  

  • The stock of natural capital should be at the heart of any natural capital assessment
  • Targets with respect to biodiversity should be identified
  • Indicators that provide information on the state of biodiversity that a business is responsible for, or has a commitment to, should be developed
  • The cost of delivering biodiversity targets should be estimated and reported in natural capital accounts to reflect of a company’s liability with regards to maintenance of natural capital assets on which it depends or has impact

Another lead author on the paper, Dr Bhaskar Vira, of the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, and Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, added: “To move forward the positive steps outlined in the paper must be put at the heart of natural capital. When businesses are looking to understand and mitigate their environmental impacts, biodiversity needs to be at the forefront of their assessment.”