Who has made most progress in quantifying “natural capital”?

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Part
01

Natural Capital - Top Organizations

Some examples of top organizations focusing on the study of "natural capital" around the world are The United Nations Environment Programme, Stanford University, The Natural Capital Coalition, and Conservation International (CI).

THE UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME

  • The United Nations Environment Programme is the global environmental authority that sets the worldwide environmental agenda.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme has an evaluation office division that focuses on promoting "operational learning and provides evidence of results to meet accountability requirements".
  • The Evaluation Office conducts evaluations and management studies independently and reports the findings without interference.
  • The organization "promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment".
  • The organization has set up awards and prizes for individuals and organizations that champion for natural capital. The awards include Champion of the Earth, Young Champions of the Earth, SEED Awards, and Sasakawa Prize.

IMPACT
  • The organization is working with over 800 universities to support their communities to learn and act in support of the environment. The program also seeks to inspire the next generation by offering them courses to learn from.
  • As the organization encourages partnerships to care for the environment by educating and inspiring people, they were able to improve today's quality of life, without having to compromise the lives of the next generations.


STANFORD UNIVERSITY

  • Stanford University is one of the organizations studying natural capital.
  • Stanford University is working in partnership with other institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Minnesota with the objective of achieving more targeted natural capital investments.
  • Stanford University is working with decision makers to identify questions then develop tools to answer the questions.
  • The university builds capacity through education and outreach.
  • Stanford University partnered with the government of Belize to design a coastal management plan that facilitates sustainable use of the environment.

IMPACT
  • Stanford University has created tools and a program to help water fund group track results for water supplies.
  • Through the university's Natural Capital Project, the value of nature is integrated with society's major decisions, leading to the improvement of the community's well-being, as well as that of nature.

THE NATURAL CAPITAL COALITION

  • The coalition is made up of about 300 organizations.
  • The coalition is supported by the coalition team which studies provide an overview of natural space work. The team highlights connections engage in the outreach to facilitate expert advice for the coalition community.
  • The organization studies natural capital in a way that will be of benefit to the diverse segments of society.
  • Natural Capital Coalition has partnered with Conservation International (CI), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to address challenges facing oceans. The project was launched with an interactive workshop whose studies are being used by the coalition to develop a briefing paper for the supplement.
  • The organization has partnered with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) to address biodiversity. The project involves scientific studies on biodiversity.

IMPACT
  • Through the efforts that the coalition projects are doing, key challenges are identified and practical solutions can be made to protect the natural world's ability to provide and give profitability.

CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL (CI)

  • Conservation International is working with communities, companies, and countries to build a healthier, prosperous and productive planet through science.
  •  Conservation International (CI) has the most data-driven quantification system of natural capital with "an accounting system that can help governments calculate exactly how nature supports their economies" and another system for private sectors to better understand the value of natural capital within their financial goals.
  • The organization is working in places such as Raja Ampat, Andasibe, Abrolhos, and Tonle Sap Lake.

IMPACT
  • The organization employs approximately 1,000 people and works with more than 2,000 partners in 30 countries.
  • The organization was able to help support 1,200 protected areas and has intervened across 77 countries, protecting 601 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas.​​

RESEARCH STRATEGY:

We commenced our research on examples of top organizations focusing on the study of "natural capital" by looking at industry publications. We found lists of the top "natural capital" organizations then reviewed their website to be able to determine the ones that are championing the study of "natural capital" globally and compiled the data. Relying on insights published by the aforementioned reports, we defined top organizations as those that have a big impact on governments and other organizations. They are also selected based on their work's long-term goal of protecting the current state of the world's natural capital for everyone's benefit in the future.
Part
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Part
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Natural Capital - World Forum On Natural Capital

Fourteen organizations that attended the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital were the United Nations Environment Programme, NASA, World Wildlife Foundation, International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, One Young World, Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa, Oxford University, Stanford University, the World Business Council for Sustainabile Development, Natural Capital Coalition, Scottish Wildlife Trust, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Green Economy Coalition. Eight companies that attended the event were Arcadis, BASF, International Paper, Kering, Natura, Olam, PwC, and S&P Trucost.

Findings

A. Organizations

1. Organizations 1-7

2. Organizations 8-14

B. Companies

  • Arcadis attended the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital. This link is to the company's website.
  • The 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital was attended by BASF. This link is to the company's website.
  • International Paper attended the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital. This link is to the company's website.
  • The 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital was attended by Kering. This link is to the company's website.
  • Natura attended the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital. This link is to the company's website.
  • The 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital was attended by Olam. This link is to the company's website.
  • PwC attended the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital. This link is to the company's website.
  • The 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital was attended by S&P Trucost. This link is to the company's website.

Your research team applied the following strategy:

We identified the above environmental organizations and research institutes as attendees of the 2017 World Forum on Natural Capital through an event press release, articles about the event, and organization newsletter. With regard to the links provided for the organizations, we looked for links to their natural capital initiatives and included such when available. For those organizations that don't have an express initiative website, we included links to their main websites instead. We also included companies that attended the event because we learned of such during our research and wanted to provide the most information possible about the event attendees. The links provided for those companies were included based on the same process we used for the organizations.
Part
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Part
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Natural Capital - Academic Reports

Below are seven examples of academic and scientific reports on natural capital from the past five years. These reports cover a range of topics, including the progress and challenges in the use of natural capital, the valuation of natural capital, the monitoring of natural assets and at-risk benefits, the relationship between natural capital stocks and provision of ecosystem services, the potential use of natural capital in solving education and conservation problems, the definition of ecosystem assets, and the relationship between natural capital stock maintenance and urban sustainability assessment.

NATURAL CAPITAL AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES INFORMING DECISIONS: FROM PROMISE TO PRACTICE

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from around the world, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in 2015.
  • This report looks into progress and challenges in the use of natural capital and the related ecosystem services it supports in sustainable development decision-making.
  • According to this report, the exploration of natural capital and the ecosystem services associated with it is crucial in the development of systems for ending poverty and creating sustainable consumption levels.
  • The following three dimensions are explored: increasing awareness of the relationship between human well-being and ecosystems, promoting the advancement of the "interdisciplinary science of ecosystem services," and taking this science into account in decisions relating to the restoration and sustainable use of natural capital.
  • This report explores the lack of effective solutions and provides recommendations as to how this can be changed.

MEASURING THE VALUE OF GROUNDWATER AND OTHER FORMS OF NATURAL CAPITAL

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from universities in the United States, was published in PNAS in 2015.
  • This report provides a quantitative framework or guideline for valuing natural capital.
  • How this framework aligns with how conventional forms of capital are priced, how this framework takes into account economic and biophysical feedback, and how this framework can direct sustainability measurement efforts are explained in this report.
  • For illustration purposes, the framework was applied to "groundwater in the Kansas High Plains Aquifer."

TOWARDS A RISK REGISTER FOR NATURAL CAPITAL

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers in the United Kingdom, was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology in 2015.
  • This report proposes a risk register as a solution to monitor natural assets and determine which assets and corresponding benefits are at risk.
  • This risk register was used in the preliminary assessment of natural capital assets in the United Kingdom, with these natural capital assets evaluated for ten types of benefits, namely, food, timber, aesthetics, energy, freshwater, clean air, recreation, wildlife, equable climate, and hazard protection.
  • This report demonstrates how a natural capital risk register can be useful in monitoring trends and improving metrics associated with asset-benefit relationships.

MANAGING NATURAL CAPITAL STOCKS FOR THE PROVISION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, was published in Conservation letters, "a journal of the Society for Conservation Biology," in 2016.
  • This report highlights how there is little guidance as to how management interventions can make the provision of ecosystem services better and thus presents a framework that directly connects natural capital stocks to the provision of ecosystem services.
  • The framework helps in identifying natural capital stock attributes that can be managed as critical intervention points.
  • The application of this framework on the ground can be facilitated by a formal decision-making process.

LEVERAGING NATURAL CAPITAL TO SOLVE THE EDUCATION AND CONSERVATION CRISIS

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from the United States and Denmark, was published in Conservation Biology in 2018.
  • This report explores how natural capital can be used as a resource for improving school performance and engagement in conservation.
  • In this report, natural capital is framed as an asset or resource that can be leveraged to solve resource deficiencies in education, particularly K-12 education.
  • How education and conservation have shared issues is highlighted in this report.

DEFINING ECOSYSTEM ASSETS FOR NATURAL CAPITAL ACCOUNTING

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from the United States, the Netherlands, and Australia, was published in peer-reviewed journal PLOS One in 2016.
  • It defines the capacity and capability of ecosystems to provide ecosystem services and the potential supply of these ecosystem services.
  • According to this report, capacity refers to "sustainable use levels of multiple ecosystem services," while capability has something to do with how the use of a certain ecosystem service is prioritized over another. Potential supply, on the other hand, takes into account if ecosystems are able to provide services regardless of the level of demand.
  • The definitions were made in line with the creation of natural capital measurement frameworks to improve environmental assessment and accounting.

SUSTAINABILITY OF THE USE OF NATURAL CAPITAL IN A CITY: MEASURING THE SIZE AND DEPTH OF URBAN ECOLOGICAL AND WATER FOOTPRINTS

  • This report, which was co-written by researchers from China, was published in the journal Science of The Total Environment in 2018.
  • This report offers insights into urban sustainability assessment and highlights the importance of natural capital stock maintenance.
  • It looks into the use of land and water in Chinese city Guiyang and investigates said use through a three-dimensional model that takes into account the ecological footprint, the water footprint, and their respective capacity indicators.
  • It notes the capabilities of the model, including how it is able to effectively monitor the dynamics of natural capital stocks and flows.

Sources
Sources

From Part 02