The Natural Capital Initiative

The Natural Capital Initiative (NCI) is a partnership between four leading scientific organisations in the UK: the Society of Biology, the British Ecological Society, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the James Hutton Institute.

It was launched in 2009, with the inaugural Valuing our Life Support Systems conference, which saw more than 200 representatives of public institutions, businesses, academia and non-profit organisations coming together to discuss the challenge of putting a price on the environmental goods and services which we need to survive.

Since then, the NCI has organised numerous workshops, seminars, symposia and other events to continue this dialogue. In 2014 the NCI held its follow up ‘Valuing our Life Support Systems’ natural capital summit, aimed at driving forward the shared agenda on natural capital implementation.

What is natural capital? According to the Natural Capital Committee for England:

  • “Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value (directly and indirectly) to people, such as the stock of forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans. It includes the living aspects of nature (such as fish stocks) as well as the non-living aspects (such as minerals and energy resources). Natural capital underpins all other types of capital… and is the foundation on which our economy, society and prosperity is built.”

‘Natural capital’ has become an increasingly popular metaphor for the features of the natural environment that underpin society, the economy and wellbeing. The concept of natural capital is attractive to business and government alike. It puts the natural environment on an equal footing to financial, manufactured, human and social capital. In doing so, it is bringing about a step change in how the environment is prioritised and valued throughout society and in the economy. The increasing interest in natural capital and the development of enabling methodologies among science, policy and business communities has advanced both the scope and potential impact of this area in recent years.

NCI’s mission is to support decision-making that results in the sustainable management of our natural capital. We aim to do this by:

  • Initiating and facilitating dialogue between people from academia, policy, business and civil society who make or influence decisions to find shared solutions and approaches;
  • Communicating independent, authoritative synthesis and evaluation of the scientific evidence base. Our aim is to be the UK’s leading forum through which decision-makers from academia, business, civil society and policy can engage in meaningful cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral dialogue on how to embed natural capital thinking in policy and practice based on the best available evidence from across the natural and social sciences.

For more information about the work of the Natural Capital Initiative please visit: www.naturalcapitalinitiative.org.uk