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Natural Capital

The recent business engagement decision coming from the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) included a request to the Executive Secretary "To compile information, and analyse best practices, standards and research on biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, and the valuation of those services, to facilitate assessments of the contributions by business to achieving the objectives of the Convention and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and to assist in the dissemination of this information to various relevant forums" (decision XII/10/3f). The valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services is directly tied to the concept of Natural Capital.

The following video provides a perspective on Natural Capital and its importance for business.

Natural Capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. It is from this Natural Capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible. The most obvious ecosystem services include food, the water, plant materials used for fuel, building materials and medicines. There are also many less visible ecosystem services such as the climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, or the pollination of crops by insects. Even less visible are cultural ecosystem services such as the inspiration taken from wildlife and the natural environment.

Poorly managed Natural Capital becomes not only an ecological liability, but a social and economic liability too. Working against nature by overexploiting Natural Capital can be catastrophic not just in terms of biodiversity loss, but also catastrophic for humans as ecosystem productivity and resilience decline over time and some regions become more prone to extreme events such as floods and droughts. Ultimately, this makes it more difficult for human communities to sustain themselves, particularly in already stressed ecosystems, potentially leading to starvation, conflict over resource scarcity and displacement of populations.
(text is referenced from the site: Natural Capital Forum (http://www.naturalcapitalforum.com/what-is-natural-capital))

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme