Natural Capital Accounting for Business: Guide to selecting an approach — report by the European Business and Biodiversity (B@B) Platform

Inter-relationships between nat­ural cap­i­tal, ecosys­tem & abi­otic ser­vices, busi­nesses and other cap­i­tals, and envi­ron­men­tal impacts

The Euro­pean Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity (B@B) Plat­form has pub­lished a report enti­tled “B@B Work­stream 1: Nat­ural Cap­i­tal Account­ing for Busi­ness: Guide to select­ing an approach”. The report is the out­come of the work con­ducted on the Nat­ural Cap­i­tal Account­ing Work­stream between Novem­ber 2013 and Octo­ber 2014.

The Guide was elab­o­rated by James Spur­geon in coop­er­a­tion with dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the B@B Plat­form. Its objec­tive is to help com­pa­nies under­stand what is meant by NCA for busi­ness and to help them select NCA approaches suit­able for their spe­cific circumstances.

The Guide is accom­pa­nied by a “NCA Decision-matrix Tool which has been devel­oped as part of this Work­stream. This inter­ac­tive tool links 11 NCA approaches to a series of ques­tions about the com­pa­nies’ inter­con­nec­tions with bio­di­ver­sity and the envi­ron­ment. The objec­tive is to enable the com­pa­nies to iden­tify which approach(es) fits their spe­cific needs. Pro­vi­sional ideas are also pro­vided on poten­tially avail­able guide­lines and tools to help imple­ment any such approaches. Guid­ance on how to use the NCA Decision-matrix Tool is pro­vided in sec­tion 5 of the Guide.

You can down­load the report and the NCA Decision-matrix Tool or find the Pdfs fol­low­ing: Nat­ural Cap­i­tal Account­ing for Business_report and Nat­ural Cap­i­tal Accounting_decision-matrix-tool.

Read more in the exec­u­tive sum­mary below.

Exec­u­tive summary


The objec­tive of this Guide is to help com­pa­nies under­stand what is meant by nat­ural cap­i­tal account­ing (NCA) for busi­ness and to help them select NCA approaches suit­able for their spe­cific cir­cum­stances. The Guide and decision-matrix tool devel­oped as part of this study to help do this rep­re­sent an ini­tial attempt that requires build­ing upon and updat­ing in due course.


The project has been under­taken as part of the NCA work­stream of the EU Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity (B@B) Plat­form. The Guide has been devel­oped with the input of 10 Full Mem­ber com­pa­nies of the NCA work­stream, and review by other NCA Mem­ber com­pa­nies. It has involved an ini­tial ques­tion­naire sur­vey, two work­shops and sev­eral of the Full mem­ber com­pa­nies pilot­ing the tool.

Busi­ness case

The con­tin­u­ing decline in nat­ural cap­i­tal and rise in asso­ci­ated reg­u­la­tions will increas­ingly result in busi­nesses hav­ing to under­take some form of NCA. Fur­ther­more, many busi­nesses are already con­duct­ing NCAs because they recog­nise the ben­e­fits they can gain from doing so. This includes improved inte­grated decision-making, reduced risks and costs, new and enhanced rev­enues and a range of rep­u­ta­tional and strate­gic benefits.


For the pur­poses of this doc­u­ment, this study defines nat­ural cap­i­tal account­ing for busi­ness as: Iden­ti­fy­ing, quan­ti­fy­ing and/or valu­ing envi­ron­men­tal depen­den­cies and impacts to inform busi­ness decision-making and report­ing’. A more com­pre­hen­sive def­i­n­i­tion is: ‘Iden­ti­fy­ing, quan­ti­fy­ing and/or valu­ing nat­ural cap­i­tal impacts, depen­den­cies and assets, as well as other envi­ron­men­tal impacts and lia­bil­i­ties, to inform busi­ness decision-making and report­ing’. In effect, these def­i­n­i­tions really rep­re­sent ‘envi­ron­men­tal account­ing for business’.

There are many def­i­n­i­tions avail­able for nat­ural cap­i­tal itself. Accord­ing to the Nat­ural Cap­i­tal Coali­tion (NCCa, 2014), nat­ural cap­i­tal is ‘The finite stock of nat­ural assets (air, water, land, habi­tats) from which goods and ser­vices flow to ben­e­fit soci­ety and the econ­omy. It is made up of ecosys­tems (pro­vid­ing renew­able resources and ser­vices), and non-renewable deposits of fos­sil fuels and minerals’.

Fig­ure 1 below shows the main com­po­nents of the envi­ron­ment cov­ered by this Guide and decision-matrix tool. These com­prise: nat­ural cap­i­tal (split into living/biotic and nonliving/abiotic com­po­nents together with other plan­e­tary processes); the ben­e­fits these gen­er­ate (ecosys­tem ser­vices and abi­otic ser­vices); and envi­ron­men­tal impacts (those directly impact­ing nat­ural cap­i­tal and ‘other envi­ron­men­tal impacts’ such as air emissions).

Natural capital 2

About the Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity Platform

The Euro­pean Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity (B@B) Plat­form pro­vides an EU level forum for sus­tained and strate­gic dia­logue about the links between busi­ness and bio­di­ver­sity. The Plat­form con­sists of three elements:

  • An online infor­ma­tion por­tal which acts as the main inter­face between mem­bers and the ongo­ing work of the B@B’s workstreams;
  • Annual B@B meet­ings which allow mem­bers to dis­cuss progress on each workstream;
  • A high-level B@B Bureau of advi­sors who will guide and inform the work car­ried out by Plat­form members.

Read more here.


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