A set of four new reports identifies the range of research and innovation (R&I) needs of key UK business sectors, to enable them to measure and value natural assets.

The reports cover three business sectors – built-infrastructure, land management and insurance/financial services – all of which substantially depend upon, and have significant impacts on, natural resources in the UK and beyond.

The reports have been published by the Valuing Nature Programme ahead of its annual conference later this month. The Programme is a partnership of government agencies, businesses, NGOs and research institutions that is co-ordinated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

The Programme recognises there is an increasingly urgent need for decision making by businesses and policy makers to take account of natural assets that provide benefits for humans, such as clean air and water, crop pollination, and flood regulation. This so-called Natural Capital approach is necessary to ensure businesses’ long-term viability as well as the protection and restoration of the environment.

The reports’ authors note that, while there is increasing activity within businesses across the three sectors in addressing natural assets, most businesses have yet to fully engage or have difficulty in taking action due to a range of barriers and challenges. 

The three sector reports identify existing Natural Capital approaches being taken by businesses, barriers preventing businesses adopting a Natural Capital approach, and key R&I needs to support further uptake.

A fourth report highlights commonalities and differences in R&I needs between the built-infrastructure, land management and insurance/financial services sectors. These needs include:

  • Increasing business-relevant research into natural assets
  • Developing datasets, frameworks, standards, models, metrics and other tools to integrate natural assets in business decision-making
  • New pilot projects to enable the creation of business models and solutions to protect and restore natural assets
  • R&I to help stimulate investment in natural assets and develop new markets
  • Assessing risk and resilience in relation to natural assets
  • Creation of specialist training programmes and knowledge exchange

The report proposes options to meet the identified R&I needs, including a substantial hub, which would coordinate and accelerate UK investment in business-relevant R&I and also promote knowledge exchange.

Partners in the Valuing Nature Programme say transformative change is required to reverse the catastrophic decline of nature recently highlighted by the IPBES Global Assessment and to comply with recent UK Government policy such as the 2050 net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions and the 25 Year Environment Plan.

Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the Oxford Martin School and Policy Champion of the Valuing Nature Programme, said: “Businesses need to change to help address the environmental challenges of the 21st century, something that far-sighted companies clearly understand and want to act on. These reports highlight what the research community needs to do to support business in this critically important task.”

Jacky Wood, Head of Business Partnerships at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which funded the reports, said: “We welcome the publication of these reports, which shed light on the key research and innovation needed to enable UK businesses, across a wide range of industry sectors, to better measure and value the natural assets upon which we all depend.”

Researchers, business leaders and representatives of government agencies will be discussing the R&I needs highlighted in the reports at the Valuing Nature Programme’s annual conference, taking place on 28 and 29 October 2019 at the Royal Society, London, and at a dedicated cross-sector workshop early in the New Year.

To view the reports, see https://valuing-nature.net/business-round-tables

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

Valuing Nature Programme
This is a six-year £7M interdisciplinary research programme (2014-2020), which aims to improve understanding of the value of nature both in economic and non-economic terms, and improve the use of these valuations in decision making. It funds interdisciplinary research and builds links between researchers and people who make decisions that affect nature in business, policy-making and in practice. See www.valuing-nature.net
The Valuing Nature Programme is funded by NERC, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

About the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK’s centre for excellence in environmental science across air, land and water. CEH is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) research institute, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Our research extends from molecular biology to global climate modelling, and our fieldwork is carried out across the world, from the peatlands of Scotland to the semi-arid West African Sahel. For over 50 years, our experts have monitored and modelled environmental change, generating evidence-driven solutions to complex environmental challenges. We are home to around 500 environmental scientists, based across four sites in Edinburgh, Lancaster, Bangor and Wallingford. 
www.ceh.ac.uk    @CEHScienceNews

About the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Its work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. It co-ordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.