Today the Natural Capital Coalition launched the highly anticipated Natural Capital Protocol. So what is the Protocol, and how does it fit with the increase in ‘natural capital activity’ we’ve seen in the last few years? Here is a brief introduction to the protocol, the landscape and our hopes for what happens next…

Who are the Natural Capital Coalition?

The Natural Capital Coalition are ‘a unique global multi-stakeholder collaboration that brings together leading global initiatives and organizations to harmonize approaches to natural capital.’ Essentially, this is a grouping of over 200 organisations from across business, the charity and NGO sector, alongside funders and science-based groups, and policy organisations such as Defra and UNEP. NCI became a member of the Coalition last year.

The Coalition evolved from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business which was set up in 2012. They are very much business-focussed, and all members have a common aspiration- a world where business conserves and enhances natural capital. The Coalition, as the name suggests, is inherently collaborative – they believe that we will find solutions only by working together.  This runs through all of their work; for instance the Protocol was developed after an open consultation and piloting by 50 companies, all sharing experiences and feeding back into the process.

What is the Protocol?

The Protocol is a framework that helps businesses make decisions that include natural capital – something that has been largely ignored despite the immense risk this poses to supply chains, reputation and impact on the world we live in.

The great thing about the Protocol is that it can be applied to any business, on any scale. The framework enables businesses to measure and value relevant natural capital through a series of questions –  this is designed to complement existing approaches that businesses use to measure impacts.

The Protocol presents a standardised process which builds on existing tools and methods used to incorporate natural capital accounting into decision making. This enables businesses to internally standardise their approach, but not necessarily produce results that are comparable between businesses.

It’s worth noting that the Protocol is different from national level accounting programmes such as those used by the UK Natural Capital Committee and the WAVES global partnership in countries in the global south (see our recent blog on WAVES), and is cross-boundary.

What about Sector Guides?

Sector guides accompany the Protocol and give sector-specific insights to help implement it. This includes practical examples of applying the Protocol within the sector, and information on developing the business case and the context of natural capital decision making. So far guides have been developed for the apparel and food and beverage sectors, and more are planned.

What next?

The Coalition will now work on encouraging uptake of the Protocol, and has four work streams including exploring issues around data, developing more sector guides, identifying the barriers to including natural capital in decision making and addressing solutions at the regional level, and finally advocacy to provide a clear understanding of the benefits of incorporating this approach.

NCI is keen to see the results of the implementation of the Protocol, and the case studies and data it will create to provide a convincing case for the inclusion of natural capital in decision making to the benefit of the natural world.  We will be bringing together the science, business and policy communities to openly discuss aspects of this work in a series of dialogue sessions soon. This will include a meeting on data requirements for natural capital accounting – both at the business and national agency scale.

Further Reading

Follow the Twitter hashtag #NatCapProtocol
Visit the Natural Capital Coalition website
Read the Natural Capital Coalition blog at the Huffington Post
Hear Mark Gough, Executive Director of the Coalition, speak about the Protocol in the NCI breakfast meeting on Natural Capital Monitoring earlier this year.