Natural Capital Protocol launch ‘heralds a new era’ for green business

The Natural Capital Protocol has been launched today (13 July) to offer businesses a standardised framework to identify, measure, and value impacts and dependencies on natural assets, raw materials and natural infrastructure.

The multi-stakeholder collaboration led by the Natural Capital Coalition will support companies in their decision-making and can be used for a range of applications, including risk management, exploring new revenue streams, improving products and value chain innovation, as well as preparing for future reporting and disclosure.

Applicable to any business sector, the initiative will be focused at a business decision-making level and can be implemented across boundaries, complementing existing approaches that organisations use to evaluate risks and opportunities, and engage with stakeholders.

As one of the partners of the Natural Capital Coalition, WWF said it looked forward to seeing wide-scale uptake and implementation of the Protocol. “The launch of the Natural Capital Protocol heralds a new era in the way that we maintain and enhance our planet’s environment,” said WWF chief adviser on economics and development Karen Ellis.

“The Protocol can help to secure more sustainable patterns of growth in the global economy, and help to chart a much clearer course towards a resource-efficient, low carbon future.

“Now more than ever, we face a growing risk because our natural assets are being depleted for short-term gains. And this is having significant costs: from growing resource scarcity, water shortages and soil erosion affecting the production of food, to increased threat of flooding and other natural disasters, and the health and productivity costs of air pollution, these issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Natural selection

More than 40 of the world’s biggest companies included Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical Company Hugo Boss, Kering and Nestlé were allowed access to an initial draft of the Protocol, enabling businesses to refine and influence the scheme to ensure it was robust, practical and relevant to the entire private sector.

Today’s announcement reflects strengthened efforts from businesses and Government to improve the UK’s natural capital in recent months. In February, Defra revealed it would be reforming a six-member strong Natural Capital Committee (NCC), which will spearhead the implementation of the Department’s 25-year environmental plan.

This followed environment secretary Liz Truss’ assessment of natural capital, which estimated that forests, soil and rivers alone are worth £1.6tn.

A recent report from the Aldersgate Group called on the UK Government to support businesses investing in natural capital after technical services firm AECOM stated that UK firms are missing out on a £7bn windfall by ignoring the natural capital.

In an exclusive blog for edie earlier this year, the principal consultant of AECOM said collaboration and sharing best practice is key to tackle the challenges associated with undertaking assessments of natural capital impacts and dependencies.

“The Natural Capital Protocol is a momentous step forward for the natural capital agenda, bringing much-needed consistency to the market,” AECOM’s director of sustainability for EMEAI Robert Spencer said. “For the first time, businesses and organisations have a clear framework to guide them in measuring, managing and valuing their natural assets.

“Success, however, will hinge on companies’ ability to integrate natural capital assessments into their everyday decision-making. While the Protocol arms sustainability professionals with robust guidance on how to measure the value of natural capital, progress is dependent on achieving buy-in from more commercially focused departments, such as finance and procurement.”

George Ogleby

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