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Sustainable Development

Improving people’s lives and protecting the ecosystems we depend on

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.

The 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 people, 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 including benefits from natural capital are implemented and provide returns into the future.


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.


We are currently working with government, multilateral development banks, and NGO partners in countries including Myanmar, China, Costa Rica, Peru, Nepal, Pakistan, Belize, and The Bahamas 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.   


The Costa Rican countryside
Sep 5 2023

Farms that create habitat key to food security and biodiversity

News Release
Jun 27 2023

Q&A: How strategic land use can be a climate, biodiversity, and economic solution

News Release
Chilean government representatives in conversation at the April 17-19 event. Credit: Casey Valentine.
Apr 25 2023

Global Forum Kicks Off New Project to Mainstream Nature in Decision-Making

News Release

Featured Projects

Through investments of more than US$150 billion in conservation and development initiatives since 2000, China has established the highest rate of reforestation worldwide, while alleviating poverty in rural inland regions.
The Belizean government used InVEST to engage stakeholders and devise a plan that improves coastal protection, tourism and lobster revenues, while also reducing human impacts on coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
Now other countries are looking to do the same.
Explore the project’s interactive viewer
Using integrated watershed management for resilient development in Latin America. Project partners include NatCap Stanford, CINCIA, and Herencia. Project collaborators include SUNASS (Peru), IDE (Peru), UPCH, UFAC Climate Change Institute (Brazil), WCS (Peru), and ACCA (Peru).