Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Improving people’s lives and protecting the ecosystems we depend on

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

Main content start

Our Vision

A world in which development decisions secure and enhance natural capital and ecosystem benefits to people, leading to more sustainable, resilient and equitable development at local, national and global scales.

The Challenge

To meet development demands from growing population needs around the world, infrastructure investments are expected to dramatically increase globally in the next 20 years. If not planned, sited, and built carefully, infrastructure can undermine its intended development benefits and have substantial environmental and social costs. Well-designed and implemented development plans can identify, then minimize and mitigate, such risks and trade-offs,  playing a huge role in stimulating economies, lifting people out of poverty, and improving health, while enhancing vital benefits from nature. Development plans also give private sector investors clear direction that can help reduce costly social, legal, and environmental risks. Today, most permitting decisions occur in silos—with, for example, road projects designed and reviewed by transportation authorities, rather than coordinated across other relevant sectors such as forestry, agriculture, tourism, and energy. Development that goes forward without considering a fuller suite of costs and benefits to different groups can result in unintended consequences, including higher project implementation and maintenance costs, and harm to the livelihoods and well-being of vulnerable people.

Our Solution

The Natural Capital Project provides relevant and accessible science and tools -- through policy guidance, spatial analyses and decision-support software -- to transform development planning processes and investment decisions. We collaborate with government planners, multilateral financial institutions, private sector partners, and other stakeholders to produce the information they need to plan, finance and implement development that delivers durable social and economic benefits while securing natural capital. Our approaches and tools, including the InVEST and OPAL software, enable leaders to identify where nature provides benefits to different development projects and communities, and to project likely changes under future scenarios of development and climate change. We support decision makers in the creation of complementary policy and finance mechanisms to ensure that development plans and infrastructure investments factor in benefits from natural capital are implemented and provide returns into the future.


We are currently working with governments, multilateral development banks, and NGO partners around the world to incorporate ecosystem services information into government plans and policies. We are working with multilateral financial institutions and private investment firms to integrate natural capital information into their sustainability standards and processes to inform investment decisions. Learn more about the promise of integrating these approaches into decision processes through our work in Belize, and the People, Planet, Prosperity project. 


Green growth that works cover

This collection of case studies from NatCap partners around the world offers proven techniques for planning and achieving nature-based solutions. Green Growth That Works brings together pragmatic finance and policy tools that can make investment in natural capital both attractive and commonplace.