Sunday 23rd October 2016                 Change text size:

Global businesses urged to better manage their natural capital

Woodland - Mark A Coleman via Flickr

A new web-based tool has been launched by the University of Cambridge Natural Capital Leaders Platform that aims to encourage global businesses to consider their use of natural capital and the impact it has on the environment.

Natural capital refers to the limited stocks of physical and biological resources found on the planet and the limited capacity for ecosystems to provide both direct and indirect ecosystem services.

The platform brings together companies with significant environmental impacts and dependencies, that are taking action to review, value and redesign strategies, set targets and report on natural capital use. The tool is designed to enhance business’ understanding of the growing pressures on global natural resources and enable the business community to respond to these pressures.

Martin Roberts, director of the Cambridge Natural Capital Leader Platform, said that the tools can be used to create solutions that are mutually beneficial to the environment, business and other stakeholders.

A recent natural capital conference in Edinburgh received criticism from campaigners, who claimed its list of sponsors suggested it was trying to “privatise nature”. Organisers later said that the business world needed to be “part of the solution”.

Polly Courtice from the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership commented on the important role sustainability now plays in business development.

She said, “The relationship between business activity, growth and loss of natural capital is well understood, with progressive companies acutely aware of their responsibilities towards the environment, not only because of the likely risks to their business of resource scarcity (and the policy ramifications that may bring) but also their license to operate in a world where reputation is increasingly a function of sustainability performance.”

E.Valu.A.Te (Externality Valuation Assessment Tool) is an interactive online tool and practical guide that aims to help businesses assess and evaluate their use of natural capital. Businesses can enter scenarios that relate to their current operations or see what impact a change in operations would have.

Andy Wales, senior vice-president of sustainable development at SABMiller, said, “The inter-connectedness of all resources means that issues such as water scarcity, food and energy security cannot be addressed in silos. As global populations continue to grow, managing the relationship between water, food and energy is only going to become more critical.”

Further reading:

Putting a value on nature: Edinburgh conference says business is ‘part of the solution’

Shared Planet: does nature have an economic value?

Consequences of ecosystem changes missing from economic forecasts

State of Nature report reveals alarming UK wildlife loss

Loss of £200bn pollinating services will be harmful, scientists warn

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