Proponents of natural capital claim it could be the answer to the unrelenting decline of nature in the UK that no amount of targets, conventions or agri-environment schemes have arrested.
Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that create benefits for society and is based on accountancy principles: natural capital stocks (such as forests) provide ecosystem services (for example water attenuation) that can be valued in terms of their benefits (such as flood defence) to the economy.
Previously the forest would only have been valued for its timber and land value, but natural capital accounting captures the invisible benefits too – air purification, recreation, habitat, flood defence – and so increases its recognised value many times over.
It is not a new idea, but the concept was given a boost in 2012 by the creation of the independent advisory Natural Capital Committee, chaired by economist Dieter Helm.
In 2014 it urged the government to develop a 25-year environment plan to protect and improve natural capital and step up work to incorporate it into the UK accounts by 2020.
See also -
Biodiversity Metric Could Help Business Reduce Natural Capital Impacts
The metric is being developed under the ‘Healthy ecosystem metric framework’, a collaboration between the Natural Capital Impact Group, the Investment Leaders Group as well as academics, corporate sustainability and conservation experts.
Once developed, it’s hoped companies will seek to improve their score on the metric: by minimising the area of land used for operations, reducing the intensity level at which the land is managed, or sourcing from areas that have lower levels of biodiversity, soil health and water availability.