Putting Nature on the Boardroom Table

Nature. Not the first thing you are likely to see on the agenda of any normal executive meeting. Yet, since the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, coalitions and organisations have been transforming the language of nature into something CEO’s and Board Directors understand – Economics.

This has allowed ‘value’ to be explained in a universal rhetoric that positively translates the importance of our natural systems. Which in turn, makes optimising the use of our limited resources one of the biggest challenges facing any decision-maker (well, most of them anyway).

What are Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital?

Ecosystem services are the benefits from nature gained by society. These are broadly covered under four areas; Supporting, Provisioning, Regulating and Cultural. They have changed markedly over the last 60 years in line with the vast change we have seen to society through industrialisation and digitisation.

Natural Capital is a highly debatable subject that looks at the elements of nature that directly and indirectly produce value or benefits to people. It can often be interpreted as a stock, a term which can understandably be of huge concern when in the same context as nature.

Making nature’s values visible

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) are a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible”. The organisation aims to support decision-makers to recognise the significant benefits provided by ecosystems and biodiversity. This can be done by demonstrating their values in economic terms. By enumerating the potential anticipated value and benefit gained or lost from a proposed programme, policy or regulatory initiative, you have the capacity for nature to be discussed on the same terms as the other more typical issues facing our economy and our people, like the NHS for instance or affordable housing.

What nature does for Britain

If you are curious to understand what nature is really providing us, one of the best resources by far is laid out by Tony Juniper is his book ‘What Nature Does For Britain’. This book is insightful and inspiring, providing a delicate balance of research and statistics without it turning into a dull university textbook. Thoroughly empowering and thought-provoking and written with our politicians and decision-makers in mind.

Building a coalition

The Natural Capital Coalition is working globally in an attempt to draw together a vast but unique range of organisations and stakeholders to “harmonize approaches to natural capital”. They have created what they have coined the ‘Natural Capital Protocol’, which they hope to generate “trusted, credible, and actionable information for business managers to inform decisions”.

Just one example of increasing recognition of the environment is through its impact on human health. It is evident to see all around us, when we go outside in nature for even just 5 minutes we feel better, yet, in order to truly understand and compare nature with traditional treatments, it often requires valuation in economic terms in order to receive adequate consideration in policy.

The boardroom is indeed a scary place to be. How far it goes in which direction could make or break the future of our planet, but right now, putting a value on nature is getting the conversation started and we are already seeing positive shifts in policy, development and initiatives in the UK and around the World.

Let’s hope it continues that way.

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