Combining Forces on Natural Capital

Introduction by Carl Obst

Victor Hugo once wrote that “Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come”. Recognising the true value of natural capital, is one such idea. Across private and public sectors, across disciplines, and around the world, initiatives to advance and develop natural capital thinking have emerged rapidly over the past 10 years.

In a blizzard of acronyms, we have the NCC, SEEA, WAVES, IIRC, KIP-INCA, A4S, GRI, EO4EA – among many others. Are they the same, are they competing, are they useful? To both insiders and outsiders this range of initiatives is confusing at best. At worst, it leads to a lack of engagement, avoidance and misunderstanding.

The reality is that, while differences among these various initiatives do exist, they have all been motivated by a common understanding of the reality that we are losing our stocks of natural capital – and that this matters.

While each initiative may have different origins, some differing objectives, and may reflect variations in technique and method, there is much common ground. Indeed, to engage the broader community in tackling the natural capital challenges we collectively face, we cannot afford to focus on distinctions. Instead, we must look to build on the overlaps and seek to build a common language that will enable the exchange of ideas and ongoing innovation.

It is in this spirit of collaboration that the Natural Capital Coalition, together with the IDEEA Group and supported by over 20 organisations, launches this statement on combining forces on natural capital.

It is especially relevant that this statement of collaboration is launched at the World Forum on Natural Capital, where leading voices in the movement gather every two years, to share best practice, enduring challenges and build further collaborations.

While progress to date has largely taken place in small pockets, in order to move forward we need to ramp up our efforts and move beyond talking with supporters and “the converted”.

For this, we need leaders who can establish spaces for dialogue and development, and who can ensure that technical debates do not form a barrier to progress, that we take full advantage of the diversity of skills and experience already engaged, and that the big picture is always kept in mind.

I encourage you to take the opportunity to read the statement, to share it within your organisations, to sign on, and to join us as we move towards a better understanding and appreciation of the complex and beautiful world in which we live.

Carl Obst  is Director of the Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting (IDEEA Group), and Lead Author of the United Nation’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (UN SEEA)


How public national level accounting and private sector assessments on natural capital connect

On Thursday 31st August 2017, the Natural Capital Coalition and IDEEA Group convened a meeting between a number of organizations that are recognised as leading in the natural capital space.

There is an exponentially growing interest in natural capital at national, local and private sector levels. Work at these levels, while similar, differ in subtle but notable ways. These differences have led to confusion in the past, and this confusion has in turn galvanized the organizations involved to clarify the ways in which their work is aligned, the differences between them, and the ways in which they are mutually supportive and beneficial.

While it’s true that businesses and governments often have different aims when it comes to natural capital approaches, and are attempting to capture different kinds of information, it’s clear that the work undertaken by governments can be hugely useful to that of businesses, and vice versa.

The public sector approach applies the UN SEEA (United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting) framework, whilst the overarching framework for the private sector is the Natural Capital Protocol. These approaches use complementary valuation techniques to understand the relative importance and worth of the natural world on which we collectively depend.

One major challenge we face at both the public and private sector level is the lack of openly available data and information that is necessary in order to inform these decisions. This is an obvious area where closer collaboration could provide significant benefits for all involved parties. Data collected in national level accounts can be invaluable for private sector assessments, while data collected by the private sector can likewise ensure more comprehensive and robust national level accounts.

The organizations involved in this dialogue intend to continue to support each other’s work, will work to clarify how these approaches overlap and combine, and will produce materials that continue to support the inclusion of nature in public and private decision making.

Alongside this statement a set of papers will be released to provide the history, the context, the definitions and the challenges that we are facing as we combine forces around our approaches to natural capital.

The 24 signatories of this statement are:


If your organization is interested in joining this collaboration, please express your interest here.