Data Information Flow

Why is this work important? 

Natural capital assessments are increasingly being used by businesses in corporate financial, risk and environmental management processes.  However, there are currently a number of ‘data barriers’ to effective natural capital assessment and decision making in the private sector. The Natural Capital Coalition, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and partners are working with businesses to address these data barriers and facilitate more robust and sophisticated analysis of corporate risk and opportunity through natural capital assessments.

Feedback from the private sector, including the 50+ businesses who piloted the Natural Capital Protocol, indicated that the lack of ready access to robust data for decision making was often a barrier for businesses who wish to understand and manage their impacts and dependence on natural capital.

Addressing Data Barriers: The Project Approach

The Natural Capital Coalition and UNEP-WCMC are working with a broad range of partners to develop a project that will bring together data users, data providers, data funders and academics to explore key data questions over four project phases (Fig. 1).

After exploring the data challenges facing those using natural capital assessments for business decisions, we will develop guidance on how to overcome these challenges, whilst building the capacity of natural capital data providers to better meet the needs of business.

The proposed natural capital Data Information Flow will:

  • Offer guidance for the private sector on the catalogue of existing data sets, their applications and limitations, and how to navigate them;
  • Include a data ‘lexicon’, to promote agreement on standardized definitions; and
  • Provide examples on how robust decisions can be made in the face of data gaps and uncertainties.

Key questions

  • How should we define natural capital ‘data’? What are the boundaries of what is included?
  • What are the core data needs, gaps and opportunities for business and how can existing data be made more available to decision makers?
  • What should be the guiding principles for an improved global natural capital data system?


Through working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders, this project will deliver:

  • Better clarity and harmonization within the data landscape, based on better, more accessible data for natural capital application; and
  • Better communication between stakeholder groups such as data producers, data collators, funders, governments and business users.