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Natural Capital Protocol Will Help Businesses Account For Nature In Decisions

Jul 25 2016 | Posted in: Research Highlight
By Stacey Solie

Forests perform vital ecosystem services, like controlling flooding and regulating water flows, that have often gone unaccounted for in corporate profit and loss balance sheets. The Protocol aims to help companies avoid risk by accounting for these and other benefits provided by nature. Credit: Kaleb Nimz/Unsplash

The Natural Capital Coalition launched a framework earlier this month that will help businesses take into account risks and opportunities associated with their use of natural resources.

Corporate financial accounting practices have traditionally ignored companies’ dependence on natural capital—the benefits nature provides like air, soil and water necessary for both life and commerce. This puts companies at risk from natural disasters like flooding, drought, and other shortages. The Natural Capital Protocol provides guidance to businesses looking to avoid risks and to start integrating the value of nature into everyday decisions.

The Natural Capital Protocol, launched July 13 in London, is a collaboration between 38 organizations, as well as over 50 businesses who took part in a piloting program, and another 450 who contributed through consultation and engagement. The Coalition itself is made up of over 200 organizations.  These include food and beverage companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, apparel companies such as Kering and Hugo Boss, NGOs such as Conservation International and NatCap partners The Nature Conservancy and WWF. Other coalition members include consultancies, academia, policy and government.

“The Natural Capital Protocol is an exciting step forward, providing a first set of standard principles to guide decision making for businesses. Advancing rigor in the growing community of practice for natural capital approaches is inspiring, and NatCap looks forward to continued work together with businesses through our data and science platform and other offerings,” said Mary Ruckelshaus, NatCap’s Managing Director.

“One of the most important things the Coalition has achieved is to bring together traditionally distant and sometimes competing organizations—NGOs, consultants and others—to co-create this needed joint product, the Protocol” said NatCap and WWF’s Emily McKenzie, who worked part-time for the Coalition during its first two years, and helped generate the idea of creating a Protocol.

“At the beginning, it was difficult,” McKenzie said. “People were competitive about whose contribution was going to be best, but over time we developed a true sense of team. It feels like we’re working tighter side by side, and it goes to the heart of the Natural Capital Coalition’s philosophy of collaboration. By working together in the big tent of the Coalition, we are able to deliver more than any of us can achieve alone,” said McKenzie.

Once the Protocol project got underway, McKenzie and team enlisted NatCap colleagues Becky Chaplin-Kramer (based at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment), Derric Pennington (WWF and University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment), and Michele Thieme (WWF) to help develop the Protocol.  They provided support for The Coca Cola Company in comprehensive pilot testing, and conducted related work with Kering that has informed thinking more generally about using natural capital information for businesses.

“Our early work with Kering suggests that integrating spatial, predictive modeling for ecosystem services into their Environmental Profit & Loss accounting methodology produces more flexible and accurate estimates of company risks and opportunities—current impacts may be underestimated by two to five times,” said Chaplin-Kramer. NatCap will continue to work with Kering in pilots to mainstream these improved techniques for assessing ecosystem services in EP&L.

Over the next year, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in partnership with the Coalition, is putting together a Natural Capital Protocol Toolkit that will place existing tools under the umbrella of the Protocol’s international, standardized framework. The Toolkit will include NatCap’s InVEST software and growing Natural Capital Science & Technology Platform.

Now that the Protocol is launched, the Coalition members will shift to scaling uptake and enabling implementation, through its Protocol Application Program and related training.  For example, in September, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, NatCap is running a day-long workshop with the WBCSD on “Natural Capital in Practice: Approaches, Tools, and the Natural Capital Protocol.” During the workshop, other partners from the Natural Capital Coalition, IUCN, Conservation International, and The B Team, will offer presentations, case studies, and hands-on activities, providing examples for implementation in a wide variety of contexts.

Download the Natural Capital Protocol:

Select articles, links to launch news:
New tool aims to help businesses value and manage natural assets, The Daily Mail
Kering released their third Environmental Profit and Loss Statement in tandem with the Protocol.
Natural Capital Protocol Promises to Revolutionize Business Value, Decision-Making, Sustainable Brands

Stacey Solie is the Communications Lead at The Natural Capital Project.



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