What we do

NCI diagram v2

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

  • Initiating and facilitating dialogue between people from academia, policy, business and civil society who make or influence decisions to find common problems and shared solutions; and
  • Communicating independent, authoritative synthesis and evaluation of the scientific evidence base.


Our Values

The application of ecological and biological science is central to NCI’s work. We are a partnership of four leading scientific organisations: the Royal Society of Biology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the British Ecological Society and the James Hutton Institute.

NCI champions:

  • Policy- and decision- making based on scientific evidence.
  • Transdisciplinary, cross-sector engagement.
  • A whole-systems perspective that seeks to develop our resilience to global change.
  • A positive approach that aims to identify pragmatic solutions for a more sustainable world.

To learn more click here to read our strategy for 2014 – 2018.

Our Activity

Since 2009, NCI has convened events attended by over 1,000 professionals to address issues such as environmental monitoring, flood risk management, linking natural environment and human health, biodiversity offsetting, and engaging citizens in decision-making.

NCI has held two major ‘Valuing our Life Support Systems’ summits in 2009 and 2014, providing an opportunity to take stock of the evidence base regarding the natural capital approach. These summits cover a broad range of topics, and facilitate new relationships for the initiative. The report from the latest summit is available online and a short video about the event is below.

We hold regular Dialogue Sessions;  small, topic-focused workshops or breakfast briefings that are often held in partnership with other initiatives and organisations. Dialogue Sessions bring together experts from academia, policy and business, to identify shared solutions and promote interdisciplinary approaches, and feed in to the Valuing our Life Support System summits. Recent Dialogues include natural capital monitoring, integrating the management of catchments, coast and the sea and putting the ecosystem approach into practice.

Find out about our upcoming events.

Learn about our past events.

Our Impact

NCI has seen tremendous growth in activity surrounding the natural capital concept since our inaugural summit in 2009. Increasingly, people have come together to research valuation and monitoring techniques,  and explore policy and business developments. NCI acts as a forum for these sometimes disparate groups, ensuring a frank and open space to discuss the opportunities, challenges and ethical considerations of the natural capital approach. NCI’s basis in sound science has a vital role to play – robust ecological and biological evidence relating our natural capital is key to ensuring that our natural environment is valued appropriately and managed sustainably.

NCI reports have been quoted in parliamentary debates, and at Policy Exchange events. We have been invited to speak at Cabinet Office meetings, and have collaborated on the launch of POSTnotes within Westminster. NCI partners contribute their expertise to the ISO committee on the monitory valuation of environmental impacts from emissions and use of natural resources, and have engaged with the Natural Capital Committee work on monitoring.

We regularly collaborate with other initiatives, institutions and individuals in the natural capital sector, including the Ecosystems Knowledge Network and the European Centre for Environment & Human Health.

Please contact us if you would like to collaborate with NCI.


What is natural capital?

‘Natural capital’ is 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.

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.”

How is ‘natural capital’ different from ‘ecosystem services’?

‘Natural capital’ is different to another frequently-used term, ‘ecosystem services’, in that natural capital is the stock (living and non-living components in the environment), while ‘ecosystem services’ are the flows of benefits that are derived from this stock. The difference is, therefore, between assets and the goods and services that are produced from those assets, as in all other forms of capital e.g. manufactured capital (such as factories and machines that produce clothes, gadgets or infrastructure), human capital (such as knowledge and skills that produce information or products) and social capital (such as the quality of relationships like trust and connectedness that produce wellbeing or social cohesion). By looking after and managing our natural capital well, we can ensure the benefits, or ecosystem services, received from that natural capital are sustained.